If you spot a large white and blue cargo truck that says “Waymo” on the side driving through Atlanta this week, take a closer look. It’s likely the driver will not have his hands on the wheel.
Next week, Waymo, formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project, is making its self-driving truck debut in metro Atlanta.
“Atlanta is one of the biggest logistics hubs in the country, making it a natural home for Google’s logistical operations and the perfect environment for our next phase of testing Waymo’s self-driving trucks,” the company wrote in a blog post.
It’s the first delivery truck in Waymo’s self-driving truck fleet and it will be the first to carry cargo to Google data centers.
Ed Crowell, president of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association, predicts it will be at least five years before autonomous trucks are mainstream in metro Atlanta.
“Probably half a decade away before you see it on any kind of regular basis and even at that, you’ll see it in very specific corridors,” Crowell said.
But the Georgia Department of Transportation says roads here are ready for self-driving trucks and that it didn’t make any changes for Waymo.
“This will likely be the future of what we see on our roadways,” Dale said. “But we are watching the same as everyone else in metro Atlanta to see how private industry will advance autonomous vehicles, autonomous freight networks.”
The company says the self-driving truck will be operating on both highways and surface streets in metro Atlanta.
The truck will use custom-built sensors in its self-driving minivans and the same self-driving software of its cars in Arizona.
“Our software is learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars. The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer,” Waymo wrote in a blog post.
The Atlanta pilot program will have a test driver at all times.
Waymo did not say how many trucks would be part of the project or the timeline of the pilot project.
Atlanta-based shipping company UPS said it is not testing self-driving trucks in Atlanta at this time.