Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving arm, is building a dedicated trucking hub in Dallas and partnering with Ryder for fleet management services in a two-pronged move to seriously scale up its autonomous trucking operations across Texas, Arizona and California.
This news comes just a couple of months after Waymo announced a $2.5 billion raise that it would use to continue growing its autonomous driving platform, the Waymo Driver, as well as its team. Waymo has been ramping up testing on the fifth generation of the Driver on Class 8 trucks, hauling freight for carriers like J.B. Hunt along Interstate 45 between Houston and Fort Worth, Texas and working with Daimler Trucks to develop a robust level 4 redundant vehicle platform, according to a spokesperson for the company. According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, level 4 autonomy means the vehicle can drive itself without a human but only in predefined areas.
Waymo has already broken ground on the new 9-acre trucking hub, which will be built specifically for Waymo Via, the company’s autonomous trucking operations, in Dallas-Forth Worth to service one of the busiest corridors in the country. Designed for commercial use, the hub is expected to accommodate hundreds of trucks as the company scales in the region and amplifies larger and more complex autonomous testing. Waymo says it will help the company spread out operations in Texas beyond the I-45 and across the I-10 and I-20. The location is well situated to support long-haul routes across state borders and connect with Waymo’s Phoenix operations center. Waymo said it plans to move into the facility during the first half of next year.
This is where the Ryder partnership comes in. The Dallas hub will be a central launch point for testing not only the Waymo Driver, but also its transfer hub model, which is a mix of automated and manual trucking that optimizes transfer hubs near highways to ensure the Waymo Driver is sticking to main thoroughfares and human drivers are handling first and last mile deliveries. Scaling this model will require a high level of organization, and Ryder’s fleet management services and standardized fleet maintenance across over 500 facilities should be up to the job.
The partnership includes fleet maintenance, inspections and roadside assistance across all of the Waymo Via hubs and testing sites, including the new Dallas facility. Given Ryder’s size and influence and Waymo’s access to AV fleet data, the two companies will also work on a blueprint for autonomous truck maintenance and optimized performance.
“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,” said Karen Jones, chief marketing officer and head of new product development for Ryder, in a statement. “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.”