As autonomous trucks steer themselves into increasing numbers of pilot programs and proof-of-concept tests, practitioners are increasingly considering the question of how to maintain the high-tech vehicles. The logistics and transportation provider Ryder System Inc. and autonomous driving developer Waymo took a step toward answering that question this week when they announced they had formed a partnership to provide maintenance for Class 8 autonomous trucks.
The companies’ goal is to maximize vehicle up-time and ensure the reliability required to scale operations nationwide, Miami-based Ryder said.
According to Waymo Via—Waymo’s trucking and local delivery unit—the move was necessary to serve its growing fleet and geographical footprint. Mountain View, California-based Waymo said Ryder met that need thanks to its network of more than 500 U.S. maintenance facilities nearly 90 years of fleet maintenance work.
The two companies will partner on servicing and evolving maintenance practices for autonomously driven trucks across Waymo Via sites in Texas, Arizona, California, Michigan, and Ohio, as well as offering roadside service between hubs.
“While this partnership initially focuses on fleet maintenance, we see many opportunities to collaborate on autonomous trucking operations in order to successfully deploy these trucks at scale,” Karen Jones, Ryder’s chief marketing officer and head of new product development, said in a release. “Already, we’ve collaborated on the layout and design of Waymo’s new Dallas facility to ensure it’s optimized for serviceability of trucks and for the transfer hub model they plan to pursue in the near future. Autonomous Class 8 technology is quickly taking hold, and Ryder is poised to become a leader – not only in servicing trucks but also in managing the unique logistics of autonomous operations.”
The step is the latest move in Waymo Via’s expansion, which has lately ramped up testing to help advance its technology, hauled freight for carriers’ top customers, and continued its work with Daimler Trucks to develop a robust, “Level Four,” redundant vehicle platform.
In support of those developments, the company has also built a 9-acre autonomous driving hub in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Rocky Garff, Waymo Via’s head of trucking operations, said in a blog post.
"Together, these important developments create an even more streamlined path to commercialization for autonomously driven trucks,” Garff said. “Our new Dallas hub will be a central launch point for our increasing testing across the Southwest U.S. with our fifth-generation system and is uniquely designed for launching, scaling and commercializing fully autonomous trucks with our carrier partners via our transfer hub model.”
The partners join a handful of real-world tests conducted by other autonomous trucking vendors such as Embark Trucks Inc., TuSimple, and Plus. Those advances have caught the eye of truck drivers unions, which in May began pushing lawmakers to create stricter regulations over driverless vehicles.
Some #WaymoVia news:— Waymo (@Waymo) August 18, 2021
1️⃣ We’re building a dedicated trucking hub in Dallas to serve as a central launch point for our Southwest U.S testing and freight transport
2️⃣ We’re partnering with Ryder to support our fleet maintenance needs as we scale
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