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Today’s Pickup: Waymo to run self-driving trucks in Texas, New Mexico

Waymo’s self-driving truck program is moving to Texas and New Mexico, the company announced, where its long-haul trucks will operate alongside self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans. (Photo: Waymo)

Good day,

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle unit of Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL), announced this morning that it is beginning testing of self-driving trucks on roads in Texas and New Mexico. The vehicles will drive alongside self-driving Chrysler Pacifica automobiles.

“These are interesting and promising commercial routes, and we’ll be using our vehicles to explore how the Waymo Driver might be able to create new transportation solutions,” the company said in a tweet.

Earlier this month, Waymo announced it has surpassed 20 million miles with its autonomous vehicles since its first car hit the road in 2009. Today, the company has completed self-driving truck tests in California, Arizona and Georgia. In Georgia, the trucks moved freight to and from Google’s data centers in the Atlanta area.

A Medium blog entry announcing the Atlanta tests in 2018 noted how Waymo’s vehicles were learning to drive.

“Over the past year, we’ve been conducting road tests of Waymo’s self-driving trucks in California and Arizona,” Waymo wrote at the time. “Our software is learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars. The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning and blind spots are different with a fully loaded truck and trailer.”

Waymo’s trucks use the same suite of custom-built sensors that are deployed in the company’s self-driving Pacifica minivans.

“And our engineers and AI experts are leveraging the same 5 million miles we’ve already self-driven on public roads, plus the 5 billion miles we’ve driven in simulation. In short, our near decade of experience with passenger vehicles has given us a head start in trucking,” it said.

Did you know?

Pilot Flying J, now known as the Pilot Company, has the nation’s third-largest tanker fleet with more than 1,800 trucks that supply over 11 billion gallons of diesel, biodiesel, diesel exhaust fluid and gasoline yearly to its retail locations and wholesale businesses.


“While there has been progress between the U.S. and China in de-escalation of the trade war, irregular trade volumes hurt truck freight movement. Although tariffs on many consumer goods did not go into effect on December 15 as anticipated, it is likely many of the goods were moved earlier in the year to warehouses, hurting truck volumes in the fourth quarter.”

— U.S. Bank report noting lower freight payments in the fourth quarter of 2019

In other news:

House committee to discuss infrastructure with administration officials

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., has a scheduled meeting with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin next week as he tries to restart infrastructure investment talks. (The Hill

Delay in toll installations hurting Rhode Island

Two years after installing the first gantries to collect truck-only tolls in the state, Rhode Island is facing a shortfall as delays in installing additional gantries are cutting into budget projections. (Providence Journal)

Port of Long Beach sees improved 2020

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said he expects “better times ahead” now that trade tensions with China have eased. (Logistics Management)

Expect delays in Virginia as road project begins

A two-year project to widen Interstate 81 in Roanoke County in Virginia is set to begin this spring. The project will add a third lane of travel on both sides of the highway between exits 141 in Salem and 143 in Roanoke. (WDBJ7)

Final thoughts

Rhode Island officials have had to cut back on their budget projections for toll revenue from trucks following delays in installing toll gantries around the state. The state is also still facing lawsuits over the truck-only tolls program and there is no timetable for when revenues may reach projections. The end result is a shifting of money from other parts of the state budget to cover road projects that had been planned with the anticipated toll revenues.

Hammer down, everyone!

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]