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Waymo begins testing autonomous semi trucks

by Justin King

A pilot program will employ the self-driving trucks to haul cargo to Google\'s data centers.

Waymo has announced plans to launch an autonomous trucking pilot program in Atlanta.

"So far, the focus has mostly been on people," the company says (emphasis in original). "Now we're turning our attention to things as well."

The company has already been quietly testing self-driving trucks in California and Arizona, adapting the software to deal with the unique characteristics of operating a big rig.

The pilot program will involve several semi-trucks that will be tasked with shipping cargo to Google's network of data centers. Like the current Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid fleet of consumer-focused autonomous cars, there will be a human driver in the cab for now to monitor systems and take over control if necessary.

"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," a blog post adds.

Despite the larger vehicle platform, Waymo engineers are said to have made rapid progress thanks to five million test miles using smaller cars on public roads and five billion miles in simulation. The latest announcement suggests the company has a years-long lead over several other players working on autonomous highway logistics.