J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell said Thursday that it will work with autonomous driving company Waymo to test driverless freight delivery in Texas.
The publicly traded logistics giant said the series of test runs over several weeks will use Waymo Via, an autonomous Class 8 truck, to haul freight along Interstate 45 between facilities in Houston and Fort Worth. The companies said Waymo workers, a commercially licensed driver and a software technician will be on board to monitor the trips.
The companies said the tests will explore how autonomous driving tech can be integrated across trucking fleets and enhance safety and efficiency.
"This will be one of the first opportunities for J.B. Hunt to receive data and feedback on customer freight moved with a Class 8 tractor operating at this level of autonomy," Craig Harper, J.B. Hunt's chief sustainability officer and executive vice president, said. "While we believe there will be a need for highly skilled, professional drivers for many years to come, it is important for J.B. Hunt as an industry leader to be involved early in the development of advanced autonomous technologies and driving systems to ensure that their implementation will improve efficiency while enhancing safety."
The collaboration comes as other companies, including TuSimple of San Diego, Embark of San Francisco, Locomation of Pittsburgh and Plus of Cupertino, California, ramp up tests of autonomous technology for the trucking industry. Another company, Aurora, is backed by Amazon and has said it will conduct autonomous tests in Texas.
It also comes as trucking firms continue to struggle to attract drivers — a problem made worse by the pandemic.
J.B. Hunt and Waymo say they've explored best practices for regular maintenance of autonomous vehicles, what future facility layouts will look like and which lanes are best suited for autonomous driving.
Waymo LLC began in 2009 under Google's Self-Driving Car Project and is a subsidiary of Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc. of Mountain View, California. Its autonomous driving technology, Waymo Driver, powers Waymo One, a fully autonomous ride-hailing service, and Waymo Via, its trucking and local delivery service.
A Fortune 500 company, J.B. Hunt is among the largest logistics firms in North America, with 30,000 employees and nearly 18,000 trucks.