Waymo LLC and J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. last week announced that their autonomous trucking pilot in Texas will include deliveries of goods for J.B. Hunt customer Wayfair LLC.
J.B. Hunt and Waymo will conduct their autonomous truck test for about six weeks in July and August along the I-45 corridor between Houston and Dallas, where they began their original pilot nearly a year ago. The companies said it will be the first time they transport home furnishings with J.B. Hunt retail freight and Waymo Via, Waymo's Class 8 trucking unit.
“Real-time testing with customers like Wayfair is critical to making autonomous freight movement a viable solution in the future,” stated Craig Harper, chief sustainability officer and executive vice president at J.B. Hunt. “Every supply chain is unique, so it’s important that customers can work alongside J.B. Hunt and Waymo to ensure that advanced autonomous technology will create capacity that meets their needs.”
“Through shared experiences, technology integration, and innovative thinking, autonomous technology can help us advance J.B. Hunt’s mission to create the most efficient transportation network in North America,” he said.
Waymo, J.B. Hunt expand pilot
Alphabet Inc. unit Waymo began as the Google Self-Driving Car Project in 2009. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company has been developing autonomous driving technology for more than a decade with the goal of improving road safety. The Waymo Driver powers the Waymo One autonomous ride-haling service and the Waymo Via Class 8 commercial trucking and local delivery service.
Waymo said its systems have driven more than 20 million miles on public roads across more than 13 U.S. states, as well as over 20 billion miles in simulation. Last month, Waymo Via partnered with sometime rival Uber Freight to use its transportation marketplace.
J.B. Hunt operates one of the largest company-owned fleets in the U.S., plus the J.B. Hunt 360 multimodal freight marketplace. The Lowell, Ark.-based company's services to customers across North America include intermodal, dedicated, refrigerated, truckload, less-than-truckload, flatbed, single-source, final-mile, and more.
In their successful initial 2021 pilot, Waymo and J.B. Hunt moved more than 862,000 lb. of freight with no accidents and 100% on-time pickup and delivery. The companies said their goal is to complete the first fully autonomous commercial freight transport.
As part of their long-term collaboration, J.B. Hunt and Waymo are exploring technology integration opportunities with J.B. Hunt 360. For example, the J.B. Hunt 360box drop-and-hook freight program includes more than 12,000 trailers that could make autonomous driving available in the digital freight marketplace for the first time, providing a near-term, efficient offering for shippers, according to the companies.
Wayfair to explore autonomous freight
Throughout the pilot, J.B. Hunt, Waymo, and Wayfair plan to monitor and evaluate data relating to delivery logistics, loading and unloading freight, autonomous performance, and factors influencing the overall driving and non-driving experience. The J.B. Hunt 360° technology will automate several processes such as check calls and transactions to improve driving efficiency.
Autonomous specialists—including a commercially licensed driver and a software technician—will be in the cab for the duration of each trip to monitor the Waymo Driver’s operations.
“Expanding our alliance with J.B. Hunt and beginning to move freight together for Wayfair is an exciting next step toward applying the Waymo Driver technology to commercial goods delivery,” said John Verdon, trucking lead, business development and partnerships at Waymo. “We couldn’t be more delighted to work alongside companies who share our innovative spirit and excitement for what autonomous driving technology can mean for the trucking industry.”
Wayfair noted that the pilot is its first large-scale, hands-on experience using SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicles to transport freight. The Boston-based online retailer offers over 33 million home products from more than 23,000 suppliers, as well as expert customer service and an omnichannel shopping experience.
“At Wayfair, innovation is at the core of everything we do, and this pilot with J.B. Hunt and Waymo is a great example of this,” said Sean Halligan, Wayfair’s chief global supply chain officer. “We’re excited to continue our work with J.B. Hunt and their willingness to collaborate with us on this autonomous commercial vehicle test as a part of our overall strategy to evolve our logistics strategies and end-to-end supply chain solutions.”