AI rivals form surprise alliance on driverless truck tech

Former corporate enemies, Waymo and Uber Freight, have overcome a recent bitter feud to join forces on a long-term partnership.

The two companies plan on accelerating the adoption of driverless trucks by integrating Uber Freight with Waymo’s autonomous heavy vehicle technology.

According to a Waymo announcement, rising shipping demand coupled with a growing shortage of drivers has brought the logistics industry to an inflection point.

In a statement issued last week Waymo said an autonomous trucking solution such as Waymo Via has never been more relevant to the current situation.

As part of the agreement, Waymo Via will be connected to the Uber Freight platform to enable the deployment of autonomous trucks across its established network.

Looking to utilise the scale of Uber Freight’s marketplace technology, Waymo, as part of the agreement, will connect its Waymo Driver technology directly with the Uber Freight platform giving shippers the ability to tap directly into it.

An initial evaluation is planned for Waymo Via’s test fleet ahead of it being implemented for carriers that purchase trucks equipped with the Waymo Driver using an opt-in service to Uber Freight.

Assets can then be deployed across the network.

Waymo Via also intends to reserve billions of miles of its goods-only mileage for the Uber Freight network under this partnership, unlocking capacity at a time when shippers need it most and promising to meaningfully impact the industry long-term.

“Uber Freight’s network of shippers, carriers, and marketplace technology is a great match for the Waymo Driver. 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,” said Charlie Jatt, Waymo Via Head of Commercialization for Trucking.

“We’re really excited to see how this partnership can impact the logistics industry and solve critical challenges over the next decade and beyond,” he said.

Waymo envisions a future in which autonomous trucks can be deployed safely, efficiently, and at scale across a digital and optimised network to eliminate deadhead and streamline supply chains.

The partnership with Uber Freight opens up a significant opportunity for the autonomous driving technology company whose projects are split into two separate but complementary divisions.

These are represented by Waymo One, its consumer ride-hailing service, and Waymo Via, a goods delivery platform focusing on commercial vehicle freight.

Combining Waymo Via solution with the Uber Freight platform will give Waymo the ability to apply proven marketplace technology to help carriers dynamically deploy the Waymo Driver where it is likely to prove most valuable.

Launched in 2017, Uber Freight, the hail-ride giant’s freight brockerage arm, connects truck drivers with shippers, much in the same way the company’s ride-hailing app pairs drivers with those looking for a ride.

“Uber Freight’s extensive, efficient and reliable digital network is essential to making autonomous trucks a reality,” Lior Ron, Head of Uber Freight said in a statement.

“We are uniquely positioned to be the preferred network for autonomous trucks, with the scale and the marketplace expertise to deploy autonomous trucks in a way that benefits the entire industry,” he said.

“This partnership is an exciting leap forward, and ​​we are proud to work alongside the amazing team at Waymo Via to pioneer a hybrid freight network that truly empowers carriers and will ring in a new era of logistics.”

Waymo, who shares the same with Google the same parent organisation in Alphabet, sued Uber in 2017, for allegedly stealing trade secrets and patent infringement.

The case was dismissed a year later with both sides agreeing to an equity deal which for Waymo meant receiving 0.34 percent of Uber’s equity at the company’s $72 billion valuation, estimated at the time to be worth around $245 million.

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