Alphabet’s Waymo unit is exploring its options to deploy its self-driving tech to the transportation industry, by making self-driving lorries and trucks.
The news will send a shudder through the transportation sector and the countless number of human truckers, lorry drivers and other haulage associated staff.
It should come as no surprise though, as Waymo is already looking to do the same to the taxi industry. In July Waymo said it was testing out perks such as free onboard Wi-Fi, as it looks for a profitable business model for its fleet of commercial driverless taxis.
Waymo launched a commercial driverless taxi service in an outlying area of Phoenix, Arizona at the end of last year, to a limited pool of more than 1,000 early adopters.
At present human backup drivers are always present in Waymo’s vehicles, but the company has said it ultimately plans to remove them.
And now Reuters cited CEO John Krafcik as saying on Thursday, that Waymo is seeking to seize a commercial opportunity from a looming shortage of human drivers, due to an aging population.
Krafcik reportedly made the remarks prepared for a speech to the Frankfurt motor show.
Krafcik said the self-driving technology, Waymo Driver, was also suited to steering road freight.
“Ride-hailing is an important application of our Driver,” Krafcik reportedly told political and industry leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at the event’s official opening.
“Our technology can also make trucking safer and stronger, and fill a pressing need for more drivers in many parts of the world,” he said. “We’ve already conducted road tests of the Waymo Driver in Class 8 trucks across the US, and we’re working closely with the ecosystem – shippers, truck makers, and Tier One suppliers – to ensure a successful deployment.”
However, there remains concerns about the arrival of self-driving vehicles. For example, how would a company actually go about operating a fully driverless vehicle with no human backup?
A recent study found that engineers at driverless car firms believe taking such a step could be more than ten years away.
Safety concerns came into the spotlight in March 2018 when an Uber self-driving car was involved in a fatal accident, although Uber was later cleared of liability.
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