US Autonomous Trucking Industry on the Move

Image credit: iStockphoto/NatalyaBurova

The U.S. trucking industry is moving towards an autonomous future with a successful driverless pilot, while another trucking competitor has more trials planned later this year.

Logistics company TuSimple competed in a successful 80-mile driverless pilot earlier this year in Arizona. At the same time, Google subsidiary Waymo has announced a long-term partnership with trucking company J.B Hunt Transport Services to integrate commercial autonomous driving technology into transportation and logistics.

The goal is an autonomous trucking journey through the state of Texas.  

Last year’s Waymo Via pilot “really helped us understand how autonomous driving technology could be implemented within our operations,” said Craig Harper, chief sustainability officer and executive vice president at J.B. Hunt.

Moving the partnership forward will help J.B. Hunt develop driverless operations as a “value-driven solution for customers,” Harper told US media.

“We believe autonomous driving technology will help us create the most efficient transportation network in North America. Our collaboration with Waymo Via is a pivotal step towards fulfilling that mission,” he said.

 J.B. Hunt’s upcoming pilots with an existing customer are set to run on a critical trucking corridor in Texas. The initial Waymo Via trial occurred last year using Daimler trucks to deliver a freight load with no collisions without exceeding the speed limit. A commercially licensed truck driver and a software technician traveled in the vehicle to monitor the pilot.

The U.S. autonomous trucking landscape now includes newly public TuSimple and Aurora, Embark Trucks, Kodiak, and Robotic Research, which has raised USD228 million in funding from investors.

All are running pilots as they develop “Level 4” capabilities, where trucks can operate safely without human intervention. 

A autonomous trucking report projects that Level 4 trucks could be commercially available by 2025 and haul about 6.4% of the nation’s annual general freight tonnage by 2030, leading to a reduction of around USD4.75 billion in annual freight bills.

Image credit: iStockphoto/NatalyaBurova