Recent research by companies like Waymo are paving the way for others and their own work, and it won’t be long before self-driving trucks are on the road once and for all.

Waymo Is Officially Testing Self-Driving Trucks

Kayla Matthews | Productivity Bytes

Born out of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Waymo — formerly the Google self-driving car project — is now being touted as a legitimate competitor to the likes of Uber.

The two brands have already been in direct competition within the consumer market, but a recent move by Waymo is hoping to expand their appeal to the sectors of commercial and industrial shipping.


Self-Driving Vehicles Are the Way of the Future

According to recent estimates, self-driving systems will become commonplace by 2020. While the technology was originally focused on consumer automobiles, Waymo has spent the past eight years developing hardware and software that is meant for the nuances of a full-sized truck.

Some IT experts even suggest that trucks are the ideal candidate for modern autonomous systems. With vast savings in fuel and reductions in delivery time, reliable self-driving trucks could have a significant impact on industries like manufacturing.

Current technological limitations aside, the biggest roadblock to self-driving trucks might be the potential for controversy. As autonomous cars have already generated equal amounts of negative and positive press, trucks that can regulate themselves will certainly catch some heat from opponents of technology and those who would rather stick to tradition.

Those who favor self-driving trucks are quick to point out that while the trucking industry will certainly change as a result of the technology, human truckers will still be necessary to ensure intelligent decision-making. An estimated 1.7 million jobs will be affected in some way by self-driving trucks, but many will still be able to maintain employment.

As some are worried technology will replace the current truck-driving workforce, others view it as complementary. Per a recent report by the American Trucking Associations, the entire industry is suffering from a massive worker shortage. If their predictions come true, the trucking industry could be short by nearly 200,000 workers by 2024. Self-driving trucks could help reduce the impact this is expected to have on the industry as a whole.


Paving the Way for Autonomy in Other Industries

Self-driving trucks could also lead to further breakthroughs in autonomous technology.

If Waymo’s project turns out to be successful, it will likely spark increased interest and support for additional research in autonomous tech.

Forklifts and other kinds of warehousing equipment would make excellent choices for autonomous vehicles. Not only could automation further increase fuel efficiency and improve safety around the factory, but they’d lets you allocate workers to other, more important duties on the manufacturing floor.

Industrial lifts, such as scissor lifts, atrium lifts and similar hardware, could also be outfitted with autonomous technology. Again, the primary selling points include greater efficiency and improved safety.

This technology will require a high level of communication between systems. Autonomous trucks will need to figure out the fastest route to their destination, and forklifts will need to know the most efficient means of stocking shelves. The Industrial Internet of Things, also known as IIoT or Industry 4.0, is already making such connectivity possible.

Working with advanced GPS systems, complex computer coding and industrial software, manufacturing plants are already using the IIoT to strengthen supply chains, coordinate operations across remote facilities and perform predictive maintenance on machines before they break down. This, combined with self-driving trucks and other factory equipment, could result in record-setting production numbers.


On the Road to Autonomy

Although self-driving trucks, forklifts and scissor lifts are still a few years away, the fundamental technology behind such systems is already available. Recent research by companies like Waymo are paving the way for others and their own work, and it won’t be long before self-driving trucks are on the road once and for all.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of RoboticsTomorrow
Kayla Mathews - Contributing Author

Kayla Mathews - Contributing Author

Matthews is a tech journalist and writer, whose work has appeared on websites such as VentureBeat, The Week, VICE's Motherboard and She is also a senior writer at MakeUseOf and the owner of

Other Articles

Thanks to Robotics Demand, Servo Motors and Drives to Grow to $15.92 Billion by 2022
This brief coverage of some of the emerging uses of servo motors and drives emphasizes the improvements made possible as these components become increasingly advanced. Such progress should continue over the foreseeable future...
Piezoelectric and Piezoresistive Effects in Robotics
Below, we'll look at piezoelectric and piezoresistive effects. Neither of those is new, but engineers are applying them in creative ways within the field of robotics or through methods that may one day improve robotics.
The Next NBA Star Could Be a Robot
Human employees at Toyota decided to build a basketball-shooting robot inspired by a manga character. The artificial intelligence is named CUE, an articulated humanoid robot that can balance the ball, squat and throw with perfect accuracy.
More about Kayla Mathews - Contributing Author

Comments (1)

Autonomous trucks can really change the face of modern logistics. They will solve the problem of truck drivers shortage, the problem of the small amount of capacity available in some states. And certainly they can lower the transportation costs. Still these trucks can create one big problem. Who will need a costly human truck driver, when the autonomous truck will be available? Self driven doesn't need a Logbook and can work 24 hours a day. No driver means no driver's wage. So these trucks can lead to the situation, when drivers will be pushed off the profession. So imo one of the best solutions to make freight transportation more effective is to use themobile apps working as uber for trucks. Something like Uber Freight or Doft.

Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

ST Robotics Develops the Workspace Sentry for Collaborative Robotics

ST Robotics Develops the Workspace Sentry for Collaborative Robotics

The ST Robotics Workspace Sentry robot and area safety system are based on a small module that sends an infrared beam across the workspace. If the user puts his hand (or any other object) in the workspace, the robot stops using programmable emergency deceleration. Each module has three beams at different angles and the distance a beam reaches is adjustable. Two or more modules can be daisy chained to watch a wider area. "A robot that is tuned to stop on impact may not be safe. Robots where the trip torque can be set at low thresholds are too slow for any practical industrial application. The best system is where the work area has proximity detectors so the robot stops before impact and that is the approach ST Robotics has taken," states President and CEO of ST Robotics David Sands.