Waymo today signed a partnership with Daimler to develop autonomous trucks, the companies announced in a press release. A driverless, Waymo-powered version of Daimler’s Freightliner Cascadia will become available to U.S. customers within the next few years, with other markets and brands to follow.
Daimler aims to develop vehicles with Waymo that operate in a hub-to-hub network spanning specific routes in the U.S. The self-driving trucks would leave depots or distribution centers that have easy access to highways, free of the complexities that plague urban driving. The vehicles would maneuver themselves onto the highway and then drive autonomously, perhaps making a few lane changes as they travel to another hub and human drivers handle first- and last-mile freight.
The Waymo collaboration will be under the purview of Daimler’s Autonomous Technology Group, which launched in May 2019 to bring together Daimler’s driverless activities and Torc Robotics, a self-driving truck software maker Daimler acquired, into a single business unit. Its main task is the implementation of Daimler’s automated driving roadmap, including R&D as well as setting up the required operations infrastructure, network, and pipeline. (For instance, Daimler is developing a heavy-duty truck chassis purpose-built for autonomous driving.) With an investment of over $570 million, Daimler’s goal is to put highly automated trucks onto public roads within a decade.
“The combination of increased road freight volumes and the need and vision of fleet operators for highly automated trucks is what fuels our relentless pursuit of innovation,” Daimler Trucks CEO Roger Nielsen said. “We are pushing engineering solutions that strive above all to increase safety and help our customers improve business efficiencies. Based on our [work] with Waymo, we will be in the unique position to be able to provide our fleet customers with a choice among the best solutions for their individual requirements.”
The Daimler partnership follows Waymo’s press event in June, when the company outlined its go-to-market plans for Waymo Via, its self-driving delivery division. Waymo will work with OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers like Daimler to equip cloud-based trucks manufactured and sold to the market with its autonomous systems. In addition, the company will work with fleets to provide software services and offer support for things like mapping and remote fleet assistance.
Waymo is testing retrofitted self-driving Peterbilt trucks on roads in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas along the I-10 corridor. This year, the company mapped routes between Phoenix, El Paso, Dallas, and Houston and ramped up testing in California on freeways in Mountain View, but the focus for the rest of 2020 is on the American Southwest.
Waymo previously announced a collaboration with Fiat Chrysler to get driverless cars, pickups, and SUVs to market. Separately, the company is working with Volvo to integrate its technology into a “mobility-focused electric vehicle platform for ride-hailing services.” And Waymo recently began an evaluation of driverless mobility services in France with the Renault Nissan Group and as it added autonomous Jaguar I-Pace electric SUVs to its U.S. fleet.