Waymo turns the ignition on self-driving trucks

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Waymo autonomous trucks

Having put its first fleet of fully self-driving cars on the road, Waymo is turning its attention to self-driving trucks.

Since its beginnings as Google’s self-driving car project in 2009, Waymo has focused on getting passengers from A to B with AI at the wheel. Its autonomous vehicles have driven five million miles and navigated complex streets, and along the way the company has launched its own reference vehicle, Firefly.

Now, as an independent enterprise, Waymo has turned its attention to logistics. Its self-driving truck pilot will launch in Atlanta, Georgia, this week, carrying cargo bound for Google’s data centres.

The past year has seen Waymo road test its trucks in California and Arizona, adapting its self-driving technology to cope with the different braking, turning, and blind spot needs that come with fully laden articulated vehicles.

As one of the biggest logistical hotspots in the country, Atlanta was an obvious candidate for the pilot, as well as a natural environment for Google’s own logistical operations.

The pilot was announced in a blog post from Waymo:

“This pilot, in partnership with Google’s logistics team, will let us further develop our technology and integrate it into the operations of shippers and carriers, with their network of factories, distribution centres, ports, and terminals.

As our self-driving trucks hit the highways in the region, we’ll have highly-trained drivers in the cabs to monitor systems and take control if needed.

Waymo self-driving lorry
The vehicle to transform logistics?

Internet of Business says

We hope that this repurposing of Waymo’s self-driving technology for delivery trucks speaks to its capabilities and growing maturity. Here, apparently, is AI technology that is not only advanced, but flexible too.

By using the same suite of proprietary sensors, its cameras and LiDAR system, the software can apply all it has learnt from self-driving cars to trucks – and presumably apply that data to both sets of vehicles on the road, such as when an autonomous car meets a driverless truck in difficult driving conditions.

Waymo says it has put five million self-driven miles on the clock and five billion in simulation, after almost a decade in the business. This will stand it in good stead to become a major player in what will be a huge self-driving truck industry.

Waymo’s blog post refers to trucking as a vital part of the American economy, and claims that the technology has the potential to make this sector “safer and even stronger”. While this may be true, it needs urgent qualification, because it certainly won’t appear so to the millions of professional drivers in the US.

Estimates vary, but the American Trucking Association (ATA) says that there are 3.5 million truck drivers currently working in America, shifting 70 percent of the country’s entire freight tonnage. Nearly nine million jobs are supported by the road freight industry alone, according to the ATA.

Other estimates suggest that 3.5 million is the total number of professional driving jobs in the US, with freight haulage being the most common. Whichever is correct, truck driving is certainly the most common job in many US states – particularly in the logistical hotspot around Georgia.

US government statistics reveal that many more people work as taxi drivers, bus drivers, and in other professional driving positions, again supporting millions of jobs.

So for companies such as Waymo and Google, and their growing number of rivals in this sector, autonomous vehicles may represent an enormous opportunity, but also a significant social, cultural, and economic risk for the country.

In many areas of automation, companies talk of AI and robotics augmenting human employees and allowing them to offload menial or repetitive tasks. But one person’s menial task is another person’s life and heritage. When it comes to self-driving vehicles and logistics, therefore, the job losses could be stark when there is no longer a person sitting behind the windshield – or no longer a cab at all.

That said, perhaps Waymo is pitching itself at filling a human need, rather than replacing employees. In its latest statistical roundup, the ATA estimates that there may be more than 115,000 unfilled truck driving positions in the US.

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The post Waymo turns the ignition on self-driving trucks appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Alphabet’s Waymo is entering the self-driving trucks race with its first test in Atlanta

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Alphabet’s self-driving truck

Waymo is shipping cargo for Google.

Alphabet’s self-driving arm is expanding beyond passenger vehicles into autonomous freight trucks. The company, called Waymo, is testing its driverless trucks in Atlanta, Ga., by shipping cargo for its sister company, Google.

But Waymo — a pioneer of the self-driving industry — is entering a space already crowded by competitors, including Uber, with the same challenges facing the passenger vehicle space: How does it plan to commercialize the technology?

Waymo has explored multiple business strategies, according to people familiar with the matter. But it doesn’t have a built-in path to market the way Uber does. The ride-hail company launched a trucking logistics platform, called Uber Freight, that matches commercial truck drivers with companies looking to ship cargo, close to a year after it acquired self-driving trucking startup, Otto.

Uber announced earlier this week it had been shipping cargo for commercial partners in Phoenix, Ariz., since the beginning of this year. The company is working with commercial truck drivers and shippers for this service.

Waymo does have a nine-year technological development lead over its competitors. The company is far and way the most advanced autonomous company on the road with the only fleet of vehicles operating on public roads without a driver.

Of course, using an in-house logistics platform is not the only way to approach the driverless trucking industry. Trucking startup Embark, which has raised a little more than $ 17.2 million in funding, is taking the partnership approach instead. The company is working with commercial fleet management company Ryder to ship Frigidaire refrigerators.

Like both Uber and Embark, Waymo needs to strike a manufacturing partnership to build these trucks. That’s where Tesla, which recently unveiled its self-driving electric freight trucks, could have a leg up. As the original equipment manufacturer, Tesla’s primary path to market is fairly straightforward: Selling the trucks to other companies.

Whether the company will be able to meet the ambitious deadlines of manufacturing trucks starting in 2019 and at some point produce 100,000 trucks per year, as CEO Elon Musk laid out, however, is still yet to be seen.

All that said, the driverless trucking space is in its infancy, and given Waymo’s clear technological lead, the company may seem like an attractive partner for manufacturers and commercial shippers alike.

Alphabet has been public about its move into driverless trucking since Waymo was formed in late 2016, but it may not have always been the plan, at least according to recent testimonies. As part of Alphabet’s lawsuit against Uber over the acquisition of Otto, Otto co-founder and former Google Maps employee Lior Ron testified that he originally wanted to try to work on driverless trucks at Alphabet alongside Waymo. But the company wasn’t interested, he said.

In fact, he decided to sell the company to Uber — instead of staying at Alphabet or selling to Lyft — because it was one of the few places that was open to creating a driverless trucking service.

As many industry experts have predicted, autonomous trucks may hit the road en masse much faster than passenger vehicles, largely because teaching software how to drive on the highway is much easier than teaching software how to drive on local streets where there are many more variables.

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After five million miles of autonomous driving, Alphabet’s Waymo wants to get consumers comfortable with self-driving

The company put out a new video that shows consumers what its self-driving cars see.

Two years ago — and some of 2017 — the self-driving space was in the midst of a period of consolidation, as automakers scrambled to get ahold of the tech companies building out the driverless software.

Last year, automakers regained some of the upper hand, as tech companies sought out manufacturing partners and as more driverless tests began popping up on public roads.

This year, self-driving companies will focus on gaining rider trust as they ramp up to launch their commercial ride-hail services.

In a new video, Alphabet’s self-driving arm, Waymo, is taking potential passengers inside its driverless Chrysler Pacifica vans and giving them a 360-degree view of what the car sees, as well as how it works.

GIF from Waymo’s YouTube video showing the perspective of the self-driving car Waymo YouTube

It’s no secret that Waymo has made considerable progress since its 2009 inception. Nine years later, the company has driven five million miles in autonomous mode — the last million of which Waymo achieved in just three months. It’s a considerable feat for a company that took six years to drive the first million miles.

While the company, which is already operating a fully driverless service in a small part of Phoenix, Ariz., is working out the technical side of operating self-driving cars, it has also been focusing on educating consumers on how it works — a logical step as Waymo prepares to expand its pilot and begin operating a ride-hail service.

We’ve already seen a glimpse of initial attempts from other companies to garner consumer trust with, for instance, Intel’s recent self-driving commercial starring LeBron James and Uber’s educational campaign aimed at humanizing the experience of both building the cars and riding in them.

For Waymo, this is the third in a series of steps to gain the trust of the public. The first was to start a public education campaign in partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other organizations in response to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s call to companies to step up and raise awareness about the technology.

In addition to these public-awareness campaigns, companies like Waymo and Uber have also worked on gaining riders’ trust by showing what self-driving cars see on screens inside the vehicle.

Watch the full video video below:

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Analysis: Uber and Waymo settle dispute over self-driving secrets

Dispute comes to abrupt end as Uber pays out $ 245 million to self-driving rival.

Uber and Waymo have settled their acrimonious dispute over stolen trade secrets.

The settlement brings to an end the long-running legal battle between the ride-sharing giant and Alphabet’s standalone self-driving division.

Uber is to hand over 0.34 of its equity value to Waymo – nearly $ 245 million – valuing Uber at $ 76 billion.

About a year ago, Waymo filed a lawsuit saying that a former engineer, Anthony Levandowski, took thousands of confidential documents with him when he left Waymo. He subsequently ran Uber’s own self-driving division, but was sacked when Waymo sued.

The case has led to Uber falling well behind on its plans to use autonomous vehicles, and was a major factor in Uber investors ousting chief executive Travis Kalanick last June.

You’re Kalanicked!

The legal settlement came just four days after Kalanick himself took the stand in court. He was accused of organising a plan to pilfer more than 14,000 files from Waymo, while it was still part of Google (rather than a division of its parent company).

The jury was shown internal emails in which Kalanick demanded “pounds of flesh” from Google. However, Kalanik claimed that “no trade secrets ever came to Uber”.

“Our sole objective was to hire the most talented scientists and engineers to help lead the company and our cities to a driverless future,” he said.

“The evidence at trial overwhelmingly proved that, and had the trial proceeded to its conclusion, it is clear Uber would have prevailed.

“I remain proud of the critically important contributions Uber ATG has made to the company’s future, and I look forward to their inspired efforts becoming a reality on the roads in cities around the world.”

The settlement includes an agreement that confidential information from Waymo will not be included in Uber technology. It also allows Waymo to inspect Uber’s autonomous vehicle programme via an independent third party.

Uber regrets, Waymo protects

In a statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he wanted to “express regret for the actions” that led to the lawsuit.

“We agree that Uber’s acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently,” he said, referring to the self-driving tech firm, founded by Levandowski, that Uber bought in 2016.

Waymo released a statement saying, “We have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo’s intellectual property now and into the future.

“We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology. This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software.

“We have always believed competition should be fuelled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, and we look forward to bringing fully self-driving cars to the world.”

Internet of Business says

Whatever the details of the case may be, it’s clear that the real message behind this settlement is, “Let’s move on”.

To say that the stakes are high for Uber, Waymo, and a host of automotive manufacturers, would be an understatement. The creation of a global autonomous transport system – on the roads and in the air – will be one of the big three economic battlefields this century, alongside clean energy and healthcare technology.

That this dispute went right to the heart of both companies’ corporate cultures should come as no surprise: Google/Alphabet’s desire to own as many markets as possible, and Uber’s reputation for muscling in on them by any means necessary.

The subtext should be clear: Uber’s long-term goal is building the infrastructure for personal, on-demand, driverless transport; Uber drivers have always been a means to prove the market, and never the market itself.

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The post Analysis: Uber and Waymo settle dispute over self-driving secrets appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

A $245 Million Settlement Has Brought the Waymo v. Uber Legal Battle to a Close

Uber Pays for Stolen Secrets

After spending nearly a week in the courtroom, Waymo and Uber came to an agreement on Friday, Feb. 9, in which the latter will pay the Google/Alphabet division a significant sum of money (in our view — perhaps not in Google’s). This development concludes the legal battle that has been raging between the two autonomous-vehicle companies since Waymo claimed that their trade secrets had been stolen for use in Uber’s production of self-driving technology.

In a statement provided to Business Insider, Waymo states that Uber has also agreed to not use any of its hardware or software trade secrets going forward — suggesting that Uber might have done so in the past and Waymo’s suspicions were correct. Additionally, Uber will pay Waymo $ 245 million in equity.

As reported by Gizmodo, Waymo had a list of more than 100 claims of trade secret violations it was prepared to fight for, though only eight were presented at trial. Matters involving Uber’s acquisition of self-driving truck company Otto — launched by former Google employee Anthony Levandowski — were also of concern to Waymo, as well  Levandowski’s possession of confidential files.

Witnesses like Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Levandowski were expected to appear at some point this week at the federal court session in San Francisco, but the this settlement has put an end to that. The payout likely spared Levandowski from some public scrutiny, as, according to The Verge, he was expected to invoke the Fifth Amendment when he took the stand.

A New Relationship

Uber’s settlement with Waymo has essentially forced parent company Google to become an investor in Uber and its future, which includes the ride-sharing company’s plans to go public. Waymo affirmed the new partnership in their statement, saying “We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology.”

In a seperate statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi doubled down on the company’s previous defense that it didn’t use any of Waymo’s ideas. However, Khosrowshahi also admitted that Uber’s acquisition of Otto “should have been handled differently,” and he acknowledged the new relationship shared by the two companies.

“To our friends at Alphabet: we are partners, you are an important investor in Uber, and we share a deep belief in the power of technology to change people’s lives for the better,” Khosrowshahi said in the statement. “Of course, we are also competitors.”

To be partners, yet also direct competitors, is quite a delicate relationship to maintain. The coming years will tell if this development will help or hinder the world’s transition to autonomous vehicles. Khosrowshahi made it clear that he intends to keep competing with Waymo to transform the transportation industry for the benefit of all.

“As we change the way we operate and put integrity at the core of every decision we make, we look forward to the great race to build the future,” he said in the statement. “We believe that race should be fair — and one whose ultimate winners are people, cities, and our environment.

The post A $ 245 Million Settlement Has Brought the Waymo v. Uber Legal Battle to a Close appeared first on Futurism.


Who blinked first in Waymo v. Uber?

Waymo and Uber have reached a settlement in their self-driving car case. The announcement came as a big shock, even though I wrote yesterday that Waymo’s case was looking oddly weak. Parties are free to settle in the middle of trial (heck, they can settle while the jury is considering a verdict, and they can settle even after the verdict is out) but it’s pretty rare.

For one thing, it’s hard to think about negotiating when you’re busy prepping for trial the next day. For another thing, if you were going to settle, you probably should have done it before. It’s pretty messy to call off the boxing match in the middle of the third round.

Taking any case to trial — let alone such a high-profile case — is messy and exorbitantly expensive,…

Continue reading…

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Uber & Waymo settle self-driving car lawsuit in $244M deal

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Improving the stability of the self-driving car world — in which Apple’s role is still uncertain — Uber and Waymo have reached a surprise settlement over allegations that Uber used stolen data in developing its own technology.
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Uber rejected a $500 million settlement from Waymo earlier this week: report

Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, proposed a settlement of $ 500 million to Uber earlier this week, but the ride-hailing company’s board of directors rejected the deal, according to a report from Reuters, which was confirmed by sources familiar with the case. On Friday, the two companies settled their acrimonious lawsuit over stolen self-driving car secrets. The price tag: a much more reasonable $ 245 million in Uber stock, and a promise not to use Waymo’s trade secrets in any of Uber’s autonomous technology.

This wasn’t the first time Uber turned up its nose at a proposed settlement from Waymo. The Google spinoff had originally sought at least a $ 1 billion and a public apology from Uber last year before the trial…

Continue reading…

The Verge – All Posts

Uber and Waymo reach settlement over allegedly stolen self-driving tech

The arduous legal battle between Uber and Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, has finally concluded, with both parties reaching a settlement. Alphabet sued Uber after it acquired Otto in 2016. Otto was founded by Anthony Levandowski, a former lead in Alphabet’s self-driving car efforts. Alphabet argues that before leaving Waymo, Levandowski stole nearly 10GB of proprietary technical data and trade secrets. This includes blueprints, design files, and technical documentation. In a statement from Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, the company denied “any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber.” However, short of an admission of guilt, he accepted that…

This story continues at The Next Web

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