The company’s autonomous Chrysler Pacifica hybrid vehicles, which are used in its Waymo One ride-hailing service, are a common sight on public streets in Chandler and other suburbs of Phoenix . But its self-driving Class 8 big rig trucks haven’t been in Arizona for more than a year.
Waymo integrated its self-driving system into Class 8 trucks and began testing them in Arizona in August 2017. The company stopped testing its trucks on Arizona roads sometime later that year.
Those early Arizona tests were aimed at gathering initial information about driving trucks in the region, according to Waymo. This new round of testing is at a more advanced stage in the program’s development.
Testing will be conducted on freeways around the metro Phoenix area and will expand over time, according to Waymo. The company wouldn’t share details of how many autonomous trucks it has in its total fleet, how many will be in Arizona or when it will broaden its testing area outside of metro Phoenix.
The company said it will be testing with both empty trucks and with freight. However, the freight will be for testing purposes only and not part of a commercial business.
The self-driving trucks have two trained safety drivers who can take over if needed.
Waymo has been testing its self-driving trucks in a handful of locations in the U.S., including Arizona, the San Francisco area and Atlanta. In 2018, the company announced plans to use its self-driving trucks to deliver freight bound for Google’s data centers in Atlanta.
Waymo self-driving trucks will be sharing Arizona freeways with at least one other company — TuSimple, which runs an autonomous route (with safety drivers) between Tucson and Phoenix along Interstate 10.
Self-driving trucks are part of Waymo’s broader business strategy, which also includes launching a ridesharing service and, one day, even licensing autonomous technology to vehicle manufacturers.