Waymo and Uber have signed a long-term, strategic partnership to collaborate on long-haul autonomous trucking. They'll blend Waymo's self-driving tech with Uber Freight's network. The idea is to help customers deploy autonomous trucks more efficiently.
Those who buy trucks equipped with the Waymo Driver system will be able to tap into Uber Freight's marketplace technology, meaning they'll be able to deploy vehicles on the latter's network for deliveries. Uber Freight is essentially a version of the regular Uber app designed for shippers, which helps them find truck drivers for on-demand haulage.
Waymo Via — the company's trucking division — plans to earmark billions of miles of goods-only driverless delivery capacity for the Uber Freight network. It will only make that mileage available "when shippers need it most."
The companies will trial the integration on Waymo Via's test fleet at the outset. The timeline for a broader deployment is not clear. The companies say that by letting autonomous systems handle the long-haul aspect of trucking, they foresee a future where drivers will be able to move into short-haul jobs.
Uber and Waymo haven't always been on the same page. In 2017, Waymo owner Alphabet sued Uber over the alleged theft of trade secrets by former employees. The previous year, Uber bought a self-driving truck startup called Otto, which was founded by a number of ex-Alphabet employees, including engineer Anthony Levandowski.
Alphabet claimed Levandowski downloaded more than "14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo's various hardware systems" a few weeks before he quit the company. Levandowski was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2020 and pardoned the following January by outgoing president Donald Trump.
Uber and Waymo settled the suit in 2018. After the companies resolved their differences, it was reported that Uber was open to the idea of collaborating with Waymo.