Waymo Via Partners With J.B. Hunt to Run Robotically Driven Freight From Houston to Fort Worth

The test runs will use the autonomous Waymo Via Class 8 trucking unit, completing the 262-mile haul in Level 4 robotic mode—with a driver and technician in the cab to monitor things. 

The future of trucking gets more futuristic daily—including today, with the announcement that Waymo Via is partnering with J.B. Hunt Transport Services to run robotically driven freight from Houston to Fort Worth on I-45.

Powered by Waymo Driver autonomous tech, the Class 8 Waymo Via trucking unit won’t be rolling alone. A commercially licensed driver and software technician will be in the cab, monitoring operations throughout.

Waymo opened a driverless trucking hub in Dallas last August, and began partnering with Daimler Trucks in October to use its big rig, the Freightliner Cascadia. Waymo is a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Inc. 

J.B. Hunt, an S&P 500 company based in Lowell, Arkansas, is one of North America’s largest supply chain solutions providers. 

“This will be one of the first opportunities for J.B. Hunt to receive data and feedback on customer freight moved with a Class 8 tractor operating at this level of autonomy,” said Craig Harper, chief sustainability officer and EVP at J.B. Hunt, in a statement. “While we believe there will be a need for highly skilled, professional drivers for many years to come, it’s important for J.B. Hunt as an industry leader to be involved early in the development of advanced autonomous technologies and driving systems to ensure that their implementation will improve efficiency while enhancing safety.”

Trial run could lead to long-term collaboration

The Houston-Fort Worth test runs could be a sign of a lot more to come.

Waymo Via and J.B. Hunt will explore how they can integrate autonomous driving technology across fleets—enhancing safety and efficiency. The companies say they’ve worked closely on operational and market studies, exploring best practices for regular maintenance, possible layouts of future facilities, and which lanes are best suited for autonomous trucking.

The trial run will also help the companies define how they could work together long-term.

“20 billion miles in simulation”

Waymo has been building autonomous driving technology for more than a decade. The company says it has driven over 20 million miles in 10 U.S. states, and 20 billion miles in simulation. 

Waymo says the J.B. Hunt collaboration will help it advance and commercialize its Waymo Driver.

“Our teams share an innovative and safety-first mindset as well as a deep appreciation for the potential benefits of autonomous driving technology in trucking,” said Charlie Jatt, Waymo’s head of commercialization for trucking, in the statement. “It’s companies and relationships like these that will make this technology a commercial reality in the coming years.”

Waymo has driven freight since 2018

Waymo began carrying freight for customers in 2018, when it completed its first commercial pilot with Google’s Data Centers. Since then it has hauled goods for other Fortune 500 companies across the Southwest, the company said in a statement.

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