Waymo is pausing its efforts to develop autonomous truck technology to refocus on ridehailing services instead. The Alphabet-owned company announced today that it will “push back” the timeline on its commercial and operational efforts for trucking and will also be scaling back development in the unit. A small number of employees were laid off as a result of the decision.
Waymo’s trucking unit, also known as Waymo Via, sat alongside its Waymo One robotaxi division. Taken together, they represent the company’s efforts to commercialize its autonomous driving technology. Now the timeline and the future of its autonomous trucks are in question.
The news follows reporting earlier this year that Waymo would “slightly” delay its Via timeline after laying off an unknown number of employees. But the news seemed especially bad for the trucking division, with sources telling TechCrunch that Waymo Via was on the chopping block.
Waymo plans to continue to work with Daimler (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) on the development of a driverless truck. The company also plans to continue development of its Driver product as a system that can be scaled to different types of vehicles (no longer specifically trucks). Daimler and Waymo had originally connected in 2020 with a goal to build “SAE Level 4 trucks.”
“We continue to develop a generalizable Driver that can be applied across a number of vehicle platforms and applications over time — including trucking,” Waymo spokesperson Katherine Barna said. “We’re developing a generalizable Driver, continuing our work on freeway, continuing our partnership with Daimler Truck — all of which will help us to be ready to stand up our trucking efforts when the time is right.”
Meanwhile, in California, state legislators will soon vote on a bill that would require real human drivers to be present at all times inside of autonomous trucks, which the industry said would be a death sentence for driverless trucks in the state. Experts previously predicted that self-driving semi trucks would become a thing before robotaxis since the technology and complications were thought to be much simpler.