Two unrelated companies, Daimler and Waymo, have surprisingly joined forces.
The two companies announced simultaneously on October 27th for the establishment of a global “extensive strategic partnership”, for which the primary objective is the deployment of autonomous trucks.
Daimler will be integrating the autonomous driving technology of Waymo into its Class 8 Freightliner Cascadia heavy-duty truck, and the collaboration between the two companies is primarily on chassis development, which points to one possibility: the establishment of a redundant system.
Spokesperson of Daimler has disclosed partial details regarding the collaboration:
The truck department of Daimler is currently developing a customized chassis for the Freightliner Cascadia truck using Waymo’s redundant system, for which we must stipulate industry standards of reliability and security. With the help of this customized chassis, Daimler is able to integrate Waymo Driver, the one and only leading autonomous driving software, with the computer.
John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, also commented, “the development of a redundant steering, braking, and control system is extremely important to this particular field, as it serves as the major threshold in promoting these technologies to the international market.”
Waymo had established a redundant system for the customized Chrysler Pacifica with Fiat Chrysler that was used for the Level 4 Robotaxi service in the suburbs of Phoenix, and now it seems that Waymo is about to transfer the autonomous driving technology onto autonomous trucks.
Waymo and Daimler’s autonomous driving technology have been fighting independently prior to the strategic cooperation.
Waymo has been actuating autonomous truck projects since 2017, and the company had once purchased heavy-duty trucks from Peterbilt, before assembling them into a fleet for major modification, for which the autonomous driving tests are currently in progress in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
Waymo announced the autonomous truck service Waymo Via that will be operated alongside Robotaxi, subsequent to the company’s completion of an external financing worth US$2.25 billion in March this year. Waymo Via is focused on “various forms of cargo delivery”, including short and long distance, as well as interstate transportation to regional delivery.
As for Daimler, the company became involved in autonomous trucks from 2015, and had brought out the prototype named Freightliner Inspiration Truck. Daimler had selected Hoover Dam as the announcement venue, and hosted a test drive event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Daimler eventually turned the prototype into a production vehicle during the 2019 CES. Furthermore, the company also has its own autonomous truck department Torc Robotics, which is responsible for resolving monotonous long-distance transportation, and the R&D items of the department will not be suspended even under the strategic cooperation with Waymo.
What’s interesting is that Daimler, Peterbilt, and Kenworth account for 70% of market shares in the heavy-duty truck market within North America.
Emerging autonomous trunk industry has been rather bustling in the past few months, where not only track players are receiving continuous financing, but the various vertical and horizontal alliances have also been exposed one after another. Such upsurge amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic sure is eye-catching.
In addition to traditional players of Daimler as well as Volkswagen Traton, new manufacturers such as TuSimple, Ike, Embark, and Plus.ai are also marching towards autonomous trucks, where Tesla Semi may possibly enter mass production at the new factory in Austin.
However, this path is destined to be a challenging route. After the autonomous vehicle incident at Arizona, Uber has comprehensively given up on the autonomous truck program, whereas startup Starsky Robotics has shut down due to impeded financing recently.
The cooperation between Waymo and Daimler has evidently introduced a new wave to the industry, though the particular partnership is not exclusive, since Daimler is the fifth automotive manufacturer, after Renault-Nissan, Fiat Chrysler, Jaguar Land Rover, and Volvo, to be integrated with the autonomous driving technology of Waymo,
For Waymo, it is a major triumph nonetheless, as the company will enjoy an even more secure throne once the autonomous truck co-developed with Daimler is mass produced successfully, and is one step closer to the subversive commercial revolution derived by autonomous driving.
(Cover photo source: Waymo)