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

Waymo self driving truck


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

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!