Uber freight, a service that connects truck drivers with customers who want to ship goods, has joined hands with Waymo, an autonomous vehicle subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to make self driving trucks a reality.
The partnership will particularly involve Waymo Via, the division of Waymo that deals with driverless delivery of goods. Waymo has been developing the autonomous technology collectively known as the Waymo Driver, which will eventually allow semi-trucks to drive themselves. The same concept has been applied on taxis to ferry passengers around towns with no human drivers involved.
For now, the partnership is still in the research and development phase. Waymo says it will use Uber Freight with its own test fleet to better understand how driverless trucks will receive and accept delivery orders. According to Waymo, this collaboration will be a “deep integration” of each company’s products, including a jointly developed “product roadmap” to outline how autonomous trucks will get deployed on Uber’s network once they are ready for commercial use.
In future, a customer who wants to ship goods can schedule a driverless truck to pick them up and drop the packages at their destination autonomously in just a few clicks.
Uber used to have its own autonomous vehicle division, but it was sold off after one of its test cars struck a pedestrian causing her death later in hospital. It was the first fatality caused by an autonomous vehicle during testing on public roads. Commenting on the accident in an interview, Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir in charge of the area where the incident happened said that video footage from the cameras on the car showed that it was ” very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,”
Interestingly, Uber and Waymo were involved in a court battle recently. Waymo sued Uber over allegations of trade secret theft and patent infringement, the company sought $1.4 billion and a public apology from Uber, but the matter was solved in a settlement agreement. Today, the former foes are becoming friends and helping each other out in the autonomous vehicle sector.