Digital freight matching platform Uber Freight has partnered with autonomous truck tech vendor Waymo Via in a deal they say will create a hybrid network where autonomous trucks handle “middle mile” highway routes and human drivers take over for first- and final-mile portions.
The partners say that having autonomous trucks tackle long-haul driving legs will ease the burden of soaring freight demand on human drivers, who can shift into short-haul jobs that enhance the occupation’s quality of life. Handoffs between the autonomous and live drivers will occur at “transfer hubs,” leveraging Uber Freight's “Powerloop” universal trailer pool program to enable fast transfers between AV trucks and human drivers.
San Francisco-based Uber Freight said deal will help companies cope with high fuel costs, a shortage of drivers, and rapidly increasing demand by unlocking capacity for shippers, increasing fuel efficiency, and helping carriers scale up their businesses.
Another implication of the move is that carriers that purchase trucks equipped with the Waymo Driver in the future will be able to opt-in to Uber Freight’s marketplace to deploy their autonomous assets on the Uber Freight network. Carriers will also be able to use applications to streamline the onboarding, load booking and execution, trailer transfers, and payment tasks within the hybrid freight ecosystem, Uber Freight said.
“Uber Freight’s network of shippers, carriers, and marketplace technology is a great match for the Waymo Driver,” Charlie Jatt, head of commercialization for Trucking, Waymo Via, said in a release. “Through this partnership, we can empower carriers to fully utilize their investments in the Waymo Via solution through Uber Freight, and create a great experience for shippers, while keeping our focus on developing the core Driver technology.”
The deal came the same day that autonomous trucking vendor Gatik unveiled an agreement with paper manufacturer Georgia-Pacific and Koch Industries transportation arm KBX. In that deal, Gatik’s class 6 autonomous box trucks will haul loads in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, delivering goods 24 hours a day across a network of 34 Sam's Club retail locations.
Starting in July, that approach will replace traditional, class 8 tractor trailers with 26-foot, autonomous box trucks, creating “a more responsive and flexible logistics network, increasing the cadence of delivery runs and the flow of goods, while reducing logistics costs and enabling near real-time inventory fulfillment,” the company said.
"KBX is focused on providing services that increase capacity and reduce costs in a safe, efficient way for the customers we serve," Paul Snider, president of Green Bay Wisconsin-based KBX, said in a release. "Our partnership with Gatik will enable us to redefine the traditional class 8 short-haul market and deliver Georgia-Pacific goods with even greater speed and efficiency. We’re excited to see these operations form the foundation of KBX’s Autonomous Vehicle Program, as we prepare for wider-scale adoption of autonomous trucks to meet customer demand."
The future of #freight will rely on autonomous and human-driven trucks deployed across an optimized network. Our new partnership with @Waymo Via helps unlock a road map for the thoughtful and safe implementation of autonomous trucks on roads across the US https://t.co/NpMX3kpN2F pic.twitter.com/bHhdRBW3Qk— Uber Freight (@UberFreight) June 7, 2022
We’re bringing together the power of the Waymo Driver with the scale of @UberFreight's vast network and marketplace technology to partner for the long-haul. Discover what this means for Waymo Via and the future of transportation logistics: https://t.co/dStSFzNIIM pic.twitter.com/V77yhu8i5o— Waymo (@Waymo) June 7, 2022
Our newest partnership with @GeorgiaPacific and KBX represents a major shift taking place in supply chain logistics. Gatik's class 6 autonomous fleet will deliver goods to a vast network of @SamsClubs locations in Dallas, Texas. pic.twitter.com/tMBgXg5cQp— Gatik (@Gatik_AI) June 7, 2022