California-based self-driving car technology company Waymo has begun testing autonomous trucks and trucking dispatcher training, BuzzFeed News reports.
The previously undisclosed project by Waymo is seen as a major challenge for Uber, which acquired autonomous trucking company Otto a year ago.
BuzzFeed News learned from a photo that Waymo is testing an autonomous truck. A Waymo spokesperson confirmed to the publication that the picture shows so far the company’s only test model of an autonomous truck. During the test, it was still operated by hand and transported through the streets to collect the necessary data.
“Autonomous driving technology will make it possible to deliver people and goods much safer than it is now, and will also help reduce the thousands of deaths a year that result from truck accidents. We’re putting our eight years of experience in developing and testing autonomous driving systems into self-driving trucks,” a Waymo spokesperson told BuzzFeed.
While Waymo is just beginning trials, Uber is already putting its developments into action. In October 2016, an autonomous Otto truck filled with cans of AB InBev’s beer made its first commercial move.
Recently, the rivalry between Waymo and Otto has reached a new level. In February 2017, Waymo sued Uber for the fact that the founder of Otto, engineer Anthony Lewandowski, who previously worked for Google, used the latter’s developments to create his company.
On May 30, it became known that Uber had decided to fire Lewandowski immediately. In the American press, it was believed that among all the troubles that Uber has recently encountered, it was the Waymo lawsuit that could be the last straw and defeat the company.
The development of unmanned systems for cars, in addition to Uber and Alphabet, is also carried out by Tesla and BMW, and self-driving trucks are being developed by Volvo Trucks and the Russian company KamAZ.
On May 31, the Russian IT giant Yandex posted on its blog a video of its self-driving taxi, which the company tested in mid-May. Yandex tested the first two prototypes of an autonomous taxi in a closed area, and in 2018 the company promises to test a self-driving car in an urban environment.