If you’re here, you’ve probably heard of Waymo, the Google self-driving car spinoff. You probably associate it with Chrysler Pacificas with white blobs mounted on the roof, but Waymo’s got another big, honking trick up its sleeve. Since 2017, Waymo has been quietly developing a self-driving semi truck using the same sensors and technology as it uses for the self-driving vans.
While the minivans are currently being used as a limited rideshare service in the greater Phoenix metro area and Silicon Valley (more on that to come in another video), the trucks are still in testing. Waymo declined to give a time frame of when they might be available for commercial use, but they were down to give us a quick overview of how they adapted their self-driving car technology for the big rigs.
I spoke to Vijay Patnaik, a product manager on Waymo’s trucking side, about what it takes to get this huge machine to quickly and confidently process the environment around it. He told me Waymo engineers had to run hundreds of tests to determine what maneuvers the truck is and isn’t capable of to ensure the driving system didn’t force the truck to do anything it couldn’t. The Waymo truck team then had to figure out where to place the various sensors, particularly along the rides of the trailer, to eliminate blind spots. Check out the video above for more.