Waymo began testing its autonomous trucks during trials in California and Arizona and is ready to expands those trials in high-profile way. While many of the basic principles of a self-driving semi-truck are similar with passenger vehicles like the Lexus RX 450h and Chrysler Pacifica vehicles that Waymo typically uses, considerations have to be made for "braking, turning, and blind spots" with the fully-loaded weight of such a vehicle, and its immense size.
During these Atlanta trials, the trucks will be carrying cargo to Google's data centers in the area. "Atlanta is one of the biggest logistics hubs in the country, making it a natural home for Google’s logistical operations and the perfect environment for our next phase of testing Waymo’s self-driving trucks," wrote Waymo in a blog posting announcing the endeavor.
"This pilot, in partnership with Google’s logistics team, will let us further develop our technology and integrate it into the operations of shippers and carriers, with their network of factories, distribution centers, ports and terminals."
If you have any concerns about a fully-loaded, 80,000-pound truck hurtling down the highway at [crazy] Atlanta driving speeds while controlled by computers, there will be a failsafe. There will be a "highly-trained" driver onboard to take over vehicle controls in the event that there is a system malfunction or some other safety-related incident occurs.
Waymo claims that it has five million miles of real word experience with its autonomous vehicles and another five billion miles that have been traveled using simulations. It's eager to put that that legacy to the test in a more challenging environment.