U.S. truck fleet operator J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit Waymo are expanding their alliance to deploy fully autonomous trucking operations in Texas in the next few years, the companies said on Friday.
In June last year, the companies began testing self-driving trucks, with a driver and a technician supervising, to deliver cargo between Houston and Fort Worth in Texas.
The companies said their extended collaboration includes analyzing the operational capacity of Waymo Via, which covers trucking to last-mile deliveries, to address customer needs.
J.B. Hunt also said it would explore a technological integration with Waymo, in which Waymo Via would be made accessible on its digital marketplace J.B. Hunt 360.
Although Waymo and other companies have been developing autonomous driver technology for more than a decade, large-scale commercial operations of such services for moving freight or everyday commuting have not come to fruition yet.
U.S. trucking and delivery firms are already struggling with driver shortages, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, difficult working conditions and an aging workforce.