News: Waymo's Move to Trucks Should Be a Smooth Ride

Waymo's Move to Trucks Should Be a Smooth Ride

Waymo's transfer of its driverless car know-how to commercial trucks will likely pose few challenges for the self-driving unit of Alphabet, which owns Google.

That's because the sensor, deep machine learning, mapping, and other technologies underpinning its driverless cars are almost exactly the same compared to what Waymo will use for its commercial trucks, Guillaume Devauchelle, vice president of innovation and scientific development at Valeo, a leading automotive and self-driving car supplier, told Driverless.

'The underlying technology is the same, whether the application is driverless private vehicles, public transport, or in this case, commercial vehicles," Devauchelle said. "Google is not going to reinvent the wheel for driverless trucks."

Devauchelle noted how the development of the components for self-parking vehicles requires roughly 10 million lines of software code and three million man-hours of engineering.

"Given the enormous development costs and resources, no one is going to development different artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle solutions for commercial vehicles," Devauchelle said. "That just not viable."

But fitting a vehicle with the requisite components for driverless, including cameras, LiDARs (light detection and ranging sensor), radar, and other components, as well as a high-performance, deep learning-enabled computing system, in different vehicle types pose engineering challenges.

Vehicle dynamics such as movement, navigation, and control, for example, differ between cars, heavy duty trucks, and boats, Jeremy Carlson, an analyst for IHS Automotive, told Driverless.

"That said, while these are challenges, having expertise in one form of automated driving can provide benefit and a head start when working to automated other forms of driving," Carlson said.

Waymo, despite having jumped far ahead of its rivals based on the number of driverless miles its cars have logged on California roads and streets, must also rely on third-party suppliers for much of its development work for its driverless cars as well as for trucks, Devauchelle said, who would not comment on whether Waymo is a Valeo customer.

"Nobody can do this by themselves," Devauchelle said.

BuzzFeed News originally learned about Waymo's driverless truck plans after Waymo confirmed the veracity of a photograph of a Waymo truck.

Self-driving technology can transport people and things much more safely than we do today and reduce the thousands of trucking-related deaths each year. We're taking our eight years of experience in building self-driving hardware and software and conducting a technical exploration into how our technology can integrate into a truck.

Uber, which is in the middle of a legal dispute with Waymo over claims the ride-sharing company stole technology for the driverless fleet it is developing, has begun to develop self-driving commercial trucks as well after purchasing Otto.

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Cover photo by Ktkt1234/Wikimedia Commons

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