UPDATED 00:08 EDT / JUNE 02 2017

EMERGING TECH

Report: Alphabet’s Waymo now working on self-driving trucks

Waymo, Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car unit, is now exploring self-driving trucks, according to a report from Reuters late Thursday.

“We’re taking our eight years of experience in building self-driving hardware and software and conducting a technical exploration into how our technology can integrate into a truck,” a Waymo spokesman said in a statement.

Waymo’s move into self-driving trucks comes as the company remains in a legal battle with Uber Technologies Inc. over allegedly stolen technology that resulted in Uber firing self-driving car chief engineer Anthony Levandowski earlier this week. Levandowski held that position after Uber acquired Otto, a startup that was dedicated to building self-driving trucks, for $680 million in August 2016.

While details on how far Waymo has advanced in trucks are thin, applying the technology the company is already successfully testing with cars seems to be a no-brainer. While science fiction, such as in the recently released Wolverine 3 movie “Logan,” may portray self-driving trucks lacking a drive train, self-driving trucks with a front-end are actually not science fiction in 2017.

Despite allegedly using stolen technology, Levandowski’s Otto made the world’s first autonomous truck delivery in October. Others, such as German vehicle maker Daimler AG, are not far behind with their own efforts.

There currently isn’t a market for self-driving trucks, but that doesn’t mean that a strong future isn’t predicted for the technology. A Financial Times report in March predicted that self-driving trucks “threatens an American way of life” and that when self-driving trucks become the norm, 3 million truck drivers, many of whom reside in fly-over states, could find themselves out of a job.

Precisely when self-driving trucks will be plowing the interstates of the United States remains the ongoing question. But with Waymo entering the field, the answer may well be sooner rather than later.

Photo: ErgoSum88/Wikimedia Commons

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