Waymo self-driving trucks return to Arizona freeways

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Waymo is bringing its self-driving trucks back to Arizona freeways, the company has announced, marking the return of its big rig testing in the Phoenix region. The company previously tested these autonomous semi-trucks in Arizona in 2017, later deploying the same large vehicles in Atlanta, Georgia. The self-driving vehicle company describes this as a continuation of its testing effort.

Waymo’s self-driving semi-trucks are fully autonomous, underscoring the potential commercial application of the self-driving tech we’ve seen in the company’s smaller vehicles. Waymo originally operated the self-driving trucks in Arizona as an early testing effort to get data on operating the vehicles in that particular region.

In a tweet published on Wednesday, Waymo revealed the autonomous truck testing will resume on Phoenix freeways, but didn’t provide a start date. At first glance, these vehicles look like any other large semi-trucks; the model can be distinguished, however, by the large Waymo logo across its trailer and the ‘W’ logos placed in various locations across the vehicle.

The return follows Waymo’s March 2018 announcement, during which time the company said it was bringing its autonomous semi-trucks to Atlanta, Georgia. The company has made a number of advancements since its initial 2017 testing in Arizona, where it also operates a taxi service and has been testing autonomous minivans.

As for the redeployed autonomous big rigs in Arizona, Waymo told CBS News that they will initially operate with two drivers per vehicle. Critics have raised concerns that the development of these technologies puts jobs at risks, while proponents highlight the maintenance needs of these vehicles. Human operators will be necessary in order to ensure the self-driving fleet’s continued operation.



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