Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo LLC announced today that it’s putting the brakes on autonomous truck operations and will now focus its efforts on the self-driving ride-hailing part of the business.
Waymo Via, the company’s trucking division, was launched six years ago. Until recently, it has been testing its Class 8 heavy-duty trucks, operated by Waymo Driver, in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Just last year, Waymo Via announced a surprise strategic partnership with its rival Uber Technologies Inc., with both companies investing heavily in trucking in what seemed like a safer economic bet. Not so much now.
“Given the tremendous momentum and substantial commercial opportunity we’re seeing on the ride-hailing front, we’ve made the decision to focus our efforts and investment on ride-hailing,” the company explained in a blog post today. “We’re iterating more quickly than ever on our technology by pushing forward state of the art AI/ML, and seeing significant business growth and rider demand in San Francisco, Phoenix and Los Angeles.”
The company said it will “push back” the timeline regarding commercial and operational efforts on trucking and slow down technical development. As the program winds down, most of the workers on the trucking team will switch roles, although it’s reported there will be some layoffs. Waymo didn’t say just when it will fire up the trucking side of business again.
The writing had been on the wall for a few months. In January, it was reported that Alphabet had laid off 12,000 employees. Waymo saw staff leave during the crunch. At the time, some media reported that the company’s trucking division would be affected.
Today Waymo said that its collaboration with Daimler Truck North America will continue. “Both our companies share the common goal of improving road safety and efficiency for fleet customers, so we’ll follow through with the platform investments we’ve made to create a redundant chassis to facilitate autonomous trucking,” Waymo said.
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