Waymo is opening a research and development facility for trucking in Menlo Park, California, as the Alphabet-backed startup best known for its robotaxis continues to deepen its investment in autonomous delivery and freight transportation.
According to a press release on Tuesday, Waymo is also partnering with the Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC) in East Liberty, Ohio, to co-develop a custom testing environment for the fifth-generation Waymo Driver, its self-driving hardware and software system.
“Together these new facilities will enable us to further advance the latest generation of our fully autonomous Waymo Driver across multiple vehicle platforms,” the statement said. These include the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE and Class 8 trucks, “while scaling our robust testing program and operations across a diverse set of geographies and driving environments.”
TRC, recognized as the most comprehensive independent vehicle test facility and proving grounds in the U.S., is already testing autonomous trucks from another startup aiming to automate long-haul trucking.
According to the statement, Waymo’s agreement with TRC will “model a dense urban environment and enable us to test longtail challenges you might never encounter on public roads.”
The space, to be built for Waymo’s requirements, will be “vehicle agnostic,” testing self-driving cars while also using TRC test tracks specifically made for truck testing.
Early next year Waymo will move into the new Menlo Park facility, where the company will focus on advancing its Class 8 trucks.
The location also will help accommodate a growing trucking team and fleet of test vehicles, the statement said.
A Waymo spokesperson declined to comment on the size of the team and the number of trucks the company operates.
The pandemic has forced many transportation technology companies to pivot away from passenger vehicle programs toward initiatives focused on the movement of goods.
While Waymo has continued to grow its self-driving taxi business this year it has also doubled down on its freight program, announcing in a July press briefing a plan for bringing its delivery platform known as Waymo Via to market.
That road map included partnering with OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers and fleets, for which Waymo will provide its software and other services, including mapping and remote assistance.
Its trucking program is now currently testing in California around its headquarters in Mountain View, along the I-10 corridor between Phoenix and Tucson, and across New Mexico and Texas.
Partnering with TRC will expand that testing into Ohio, offering new types of environments and weather conditions, including snow and rain, the company said.
Earlier this fall Waymo announced a partnership with Daimler to bring a fully autonomous Freightliner Cascadia to market.