Last week, J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. announced a long-term, strategic alliance with Waymo Via that it said will advance efforts to integrate self-driving technology with commercial logistics. The companies said their ultimate goal is fully autonomous transport in the next few years.
“Our pilot last year with Waymo Via really helped us get a hands-on understanding of how autonomous driving technology could be implemented within our operations,” said Craig Harper, chief sustainability officer and executive vice president at J.B. Hunt. “This strategic alliance will continue that momentum and further explore the intricate details that would make this a value-driven solution for customers.”
“We believe autonomous driving technology will help us create the most efficient transportation network in North America, and our collaboration with Waymo Via is a pivotal step towards fulfilling that mission,” he added.
Lowell, Ark.-based J.B. Hunt said it is one of the largest supply chain solutions providers in North America. The logistics company's services include intermodal, dedicated, refrigerated, truckload, less-than-truckload, flatbed, single-source, final-mile, and more.
Autonomous trucking to continue in Texas
J.B. Hunt and first collaborated with Waymo LLC in June 2021 on trial runs moving freight on I-45 in Texas for one of J.B. Hunt's leading customers. The companies said the upcoming pilots will take place in the same lane.
During the initial trial runs, the companies said they delivered 862,179 lb. of freight, had no accidents or speeding events, and 100% on-time pickup and delivery, as well as 100% of freight delivered intact.
Waymo and J.B. Hunt and Waymo said their expanded partnership will include multiple pilots. They will further analyze the operational capacity of Waymo Via, the company’s autonomous Class 8 trucking unit powered by the Waymo Driver, to address customer needs in realistic scenarios.
“Our collaboration with J.B. Hunt in 2021 was incredibly fruitful,” said Charlie Jatt, head of commercialization for trucking at Waymo. “Establishing this strategic alliance marks an exciting moment for our relationship, and more importantly, paves the way for us both to help grow the foundations for successful deployment and to capitalize on the benefits of autonomous driving technology.”
“We’re incredibly grateful for our relationship with J.B. Hunt and their shared vision for the safety and efficiency benefits we can bring to the industry at a critical time,” Jatt said.
Based on the Google Self-Driving Car Project in 2009, Waymo said it has focused “on building, deploying, and commercializing the World’s Most Experienced Driver technology to improve the world's access to mobility while saving thousands of lives now lost to traffic crashes.”
In addition to the Waymo Via trucking and local delivery service, the Waymo Driver powers Waymo One, which the Alphabet company described as “the world's first fully autonomous ride-hailing service.”
J.B. Hunt, Waymo collaborate beyond the highway
Other partnerships working on autonomous trucks include TuSimple and DHL Supply Chain, Gatik and Walmart, Aurora Innovation and Uber Freight, Embark Trucks and Texas A&M, and Locomation and Wilson Logistics. Mountain View, Calif.-based Waymo Via is also working with UPS.
In addition to J.B. Hunt being Waymo's first customer for self-driving trucks, the companies plan to explore innovations in autonomous driving technology and the digital marketplace. J.B. Hunt claimed that its J.B. Hunt 360° platform is an industry leader in digital freight matching and was responsible for processing 1.2 million loads in 2020.
Waymo said its technology has autonomously driven over 20 million miles on public roads across more than 13 U.S. states and 20 billion miles in simulation. The companies said that by making Waymo Via accessible through J.B. Hunt 360, they will provide a unique offering that could greatly improve transportation efficiency.
In addition, the collaborators said they will conduct operational and market studies to refine the commercial readiness of the driving technology.