Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle division, confirmed that it’s developing self-driving long-haul trucks earlier this month. Now we know what they look like.
We’ve seen other Waymo autonomous rigs on Chrysler Pacificas, and the hardware seen on these big rigs looks quite similar. These pictures were sent to us from an anonymous source and are not official releases from Waymo.
The truck itself appears to be a Peterbilt 579, most likely equipped with an automatic transmission, because why should Waymo make more work for themselves?
The autonomy equipment appears to be primarily mounted on a roof rack, which houses what seems to be a central LIDAR dome and four ultrasonic sensors, two at each side, covering front and rear. A radar emitter appears to be mounted low and center on the front bumper.
It’s possible there are additional sensors at the side and rear of the truck, mounted on the trailer, but I can’t confirm that from these pictures.
Long-haul trucking is a likely and obvious place for autonomous vehicles to take hold before they become common as passenger vehicles. The fact that the vehicles tend to be fleet owned, centrally monitored, and used for long highway stretches makes them ideal early adopters.
While many speculate this will cause a lot of job loss for truckers, I suspect there will remain a need to have a human ‘minder’ in the truck to act as a backup and to handle communications, security, refueling, and other duties, at least initially.
If you see this thing out there on the road, send us a tip.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Felton, who’s supposed to be on vacation)