The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Waymo Takes Its Trucks To Texas; AVs Can Make Policing Safer; And More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | August 27, 2020

Waymo Brings Its AV Trucks To Texas
Alphabet’s self-driving subsidiary Waymo announced this week that it is expanding its AV trucking operations, by moving into Texas with a new depot in Dallas. The depot will serve as a hub for the testing of the company’s 13 Peterbilt 18-wheelers on routes along the I-10, I-20 and I-45 interstates, and other high-capacity routes between Texas and New Mexico. Waymo completed mapping along the routes between the two states in March ahead of plans to start its trucking tests in April, before the COVID-19 pandemic put the project on hiatus.

Waymo is the latest AV company to bring its self-driving trucks to Texas, after San Diego-based TuSimple expanded its Arizona autonomous trucking operations into Texas in March this year. As it increased its self-driving runs from 10 to 20 trips per week, the company added a new route from Phoenix to El Paso in addition to its existing Phoenix-Tucson route.

AVs And Safer Policing
Newly-released analysis from the Brookings Institution has concluded that AVs hold the potential to dramatically improve safety for the country’s 800,000 police officers, who spend much of their time enforcing traffic laws and processing traffic violations. The analysis notes that 20 million motorists who appear to be breaking a traffic law are pulled over every year, and officers must control traffic flow in response to the 6 million accidents each year on U.S. roads—with one police officer killed in a highway accident every week, accounting for almost one-third of all deaths in the line of duty. Autonomous vehicles, the analysis reasons, could virtually eliminate the need to use police resources to enforce traffic safety laws due to the lack of human driving errors, freeing up officers to tackle more serious criminal activity. Moreover, the Brookings post adds that fewer vehicle stops also reduces the potential for police-driver confrontations.

Beijing Makes Self-Driving A Priority
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese government has prioritized the development of autonomous vehicles, 5G and artificial intelligence. In keeping with this posture, China-based AV startup AutoX recently announced the launch of a fleet of 100 self-driving robotaxis in Shanghai’s Jiading district. In addition, Volkswagen announced yesterday that it will begin testing its self-driving vehicles in China’s eastern city of Hefei—its first AV trials in the world’s biggest car market. In a statement, the automaker said it will start the test in Hefei with Audi’s e-tron electric sport utility vehicles from September. The tests come after VW said in May that it would invest 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion) to take a 50 percent stake in the state-owned parent of Chinese electronic vehicle group JAC.