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Waymo’s self-driving tech will power Daimler trucks

Daimler Trucks, which makes semis and commercial trucks for Mercedes-Benz and other truck brands around the world, will soon start offering Waymo’s self-driving platform on some of its Class 8 trucks in the U.S.

The partnership between the leaders in self-driving and commercial truck manufacturing was announced Tuesday. In a media briefing beforehand, Waymo CEO John Krafcik called it “sort of an epic moment.”

Waymo is bringing its Driver platform, a machine-learning-based sensor and camera system that enables Level 4 autonomous driving ability without human intervention, into Daimler Freightliner Cascadia trucks. The integration will start in the U.S. and could eventually expand to Europe and other markets. There was no set timeline for when Waymo autonomous features will be built into the next generation of long-haul trucks that carry loads across the U.S. 

Krafcik said he planned to work with Daimler to set the standard for what an autonomous truck looks like, which includes changes to steering, braking, and control systems. He mentioned what Waymo’s done with the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, which is deployed (and tested) on the road in California and Arizona as a self-driving taxi. The minivans became available to the public as truly driverless vehicles in Phoenix earlier this month. 

Waymo started working with autonomous trucks in 2017 to go beyond just moving people. The company’s been testing the program, known as Waymo Via, in California, Georgia, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

Daimler’s been poking around robo-trucking for many years. In September it announced an expanded partnership with Torc Robotics to develop and test Level 4 autonomous trucks in New Mexico. It’s building a testing center there, as well. 

Daimler has also built its own advanced driving systems (known as Level 2 autonomous features) into its trucks, offering automatic braking, cruise control, and more. But that’s considered separate from incorporating self-driving platforms like the one from Waymo into Daimler trucks. 

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