J.B. Hunt will be Waymo’s first self-driving freight customer

J.B. Hunt Transport Services is expanding its partnership with the trucking and cargo transportation unit of the company.

J.B. Hunt will be the first launch customer for the fully automated, driverless freight routes that Waymo expects to reach within the next few years.

One of the country's busiest trade corridors, the I-45 between Houston and Fort Worth, Texas, was the site of a "test run" in 2021. By the end of the pilot, the Daimler trucks powered by the Waymo Driver platform delivered 862,179 pounds of freight, with no crashes or speeding events, 100% on-time pickup and delivery, and 100% freight intact, according to the company. Each run was completed with a licensed truck driver and a software technician on board.

CraigHarper, chief sustainable officer and executive vice president at J.B. Hunt, said that the pilot with Waymo Via helped them understand how self-driving technology could be implemented within their operations. The strategic alliance will explore the intricate details that would make this a value-driven solution for customers.

The image is from Waymo.

The companies intend to launch several more pilots along the same corridor in Texas in order to prepare for the day when there will be no need for a driver.

The next pilot with J.B. Hunt will not include any specific goals for the company, other than to firm up the company's driver-as-a-service model. The trucks will be purchased from fleets or carriers.

That is the long-term vision of the company, according to a spokeswoman. We have a test fleet of trucks and pilots that we will use to gain operational practice so that when we reach fully self-driving operations, we have all the foundations in place.

As part of the partnership, the two companies will conduct joint operational and market studies to learn more about their progress using self-driving trucks, as well as explore a technology integration with J.B. Hunt.

There are other self-driving trucks on the roads in Texas. TuSimple, one of the competitors of Waymo Via, recently completed its first run of self-guided trucking. In Texas, Aurora and Kodiak are carrying freight.
McGoldrick says that the strategy is linked more tightly with its partners than with the boxes.
There hasn't been much meat to the partnerships that have been centered around one-off trial runs or one-off pilots. We are entering a multi-year deal with multiple components that cover everything and show that we are going really deep with our partners, as opposed to just doing a pilot for pilot's sake. We are crafting what our launch will look like together with our partners so that it is as successful as possible when we are ready.