Waymo pushes back its self-driving truck efforts to focus on ride hailing

The company wants robotaxis to become successful first.

Andrej Sokolow/picture alliance via Getty Images

Don't expect to see many Waymo-powered autonomous big rigs in the near future. Waymo now plans to "push back" its driverless trucking efforts and shift its attention toward its One ride-hailing service. The move will help the company concentrate on making these self-driving taxis a "commercial success," according to co-CEOs Dmitri Dolgov and Tekedra Mawakana.

Waymo justified the decision by pointing to "significant" growth in demand for its robotaxis in Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco. It also noted rapid upgrades to Driver, the AI system that handles its autonomous cars. There's "tremendous momentum" in One, the co-chiefs say, and the new strategy will help make the most of this trend.

The Alphabet-owned brand still intends to work with Daimler on self-driving semi trucks. It's shifting most of its technical development toward Waymo One, but believes work on Driver (particularly for highway driving) will indirectly benefit trucking. There's no updated timeline for when trucks may reach the roads, but TechCrunch understands only a handful of workers will lose jobs as a result of the transition. Most have taken other positions at Waymo.

Waymo started testing autonomous big rig trucks in 2017, with rapid expansions in 2019 and 2020 that included the launch of its Via cargo transportation division. The firm won the attention of major partners, including UPS and former rival Uber Freight. However, there's no doubt that Waymo One was the star and won the most interest. Uber even expects to offer Waymo rides and deliveries in Phoenix later this year.

The change isn't guaranteed to pan out. While Waymo is closer to offering paid rides in multiple markets, it's still facing opposition from officials who are concerned about safety issues. Driverless cars have blocked traffic, interfered with first responder vehicles and otherwise caused problems, and there's a call for regulators to limit just where and when robotaxis can operate.