A new vehicle is rolling onto Texas highways, and it may surprise some drivers to learn that there will be nobody behind the wheel.
Peter Holley, senior editor at Texas Monthly, recently wrote about the self-driving technology company Waymo’s plans to soon launch a fleet of autonomous semitrucks in Texas and New Mexico. Waymo is a division of Google’s parent company Alphabet. In his article, he writes that the company was “lured to Texas” for its high freight volume. The trucks will rely on maps charted by Waymo itself, as they travel along Texas’ major interstates.
For some, a future with self-driving trucks means lower costs, less traffic and fewer accidents. But others are concerned about safety, Holley says, as well as how they’ll affect employment in the trucking industry. Nearly 65,000 trucking companies operate in Texas today.
“This is still a big debate,” Holley says. “You have one side saying there’s going to be significant job losses over the next 10 years, and on the other hand, you have people promoting [autonomous vehicles] who feel like they’ll be able to incorporate drivers as someone who oversees the truck while it’s driving.”
Texas currently has no regulations on self-driving vehicles – another reason why Waymo saw the state as a great fit for testing its big rigs.
There haven’t yet been wrecks associated with Waymo’s autonomous semitrucks, but there have been wrecks elsewhere in the country involving smaller autonomous vehicles.
Holley says that while some Texans may not be ready for something seemingly futuristic like autonomous semis, that may not matter because they’re upon us.
“Self-driving semis have already made deliveries in Arizona and other places,” Holley says. “This is already workable technology. This is here. The question is, How is it going to impact a place like Texas?”
Written by Samantha Carrizal.