Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous driving unit, started working with JB Hunt, one of the largest transportation logistics companies in the US, on a pilot project to transport loads in Texas for one of their leading customers in the middle of last year.

That project was a big success and the two companies announced they’re forming a strategic partnership with the hope of deploying a fully autonomous trucking operation within the state sometime in the next few years. Waymo and JB hunt are entering into a long-term, strategic alliance to commercialise autonomous driving technology for trucking transportation together.

In a blog post, Waymo said: “As part of this agreement, we intend for JB Hunt to be Waymo Via’s first launch customer for freight movement when we deploy fully autonomous operations in Texas in the next few years.

“We’ll expand on the success of our most recent pilot, with a number of additional autonomous delivery efforts planned together to prepare for these fully autonomous operations. We’ll also continue to conduct joint operational and market studies as we chart the commercial success of our autonomous driving technology and JB Hunt’s operations, and later on, we’ll explore a technology integration with JB Hunt and JB Hunt 360.”

Charlie Jatt, Head of Commercialisation for Trucking, Waymo Via, said: “Our collaboration with JB Hunt in 2021 was incredibly fruitful. Establishing this strategic alliance marks an exciting moment for our relationship, and more importantly, paves the way for us both to help grow the foundations for successful deployment and to capitalise on the benefits of autonomous driving technology. We’re incredibly grateful for our relationship with JB Hunt and their shared vision for the safety and efficiency benefits we can bring to the industry at a critical time.”

Craig Harper, Chief Sustainability Officer, JB Hunt, added: “Our pilot last year with Waymo Via really helped us get a hands-on understanding of how autonomous driving technology could be implemented within our operations.

“This strategic alliance will continue that momentum and further explore the intricate details that would make this a value-driven solution for customers. We believe autonomous driving technology will help us create the most efficient transportation network in North America, and our collaboration with Waymo Via is a pivotal step towards fulfilling that mission.”

As a leading for-hire truckload carrier with operations across the US, JB Hunt is an ideal collaborator to explore how the Waymo Driver can be integrated across fleets and enhance safety and efficiency.

While carrying freight is just one aspect of their collaboration; the companies have also worked closely on operational and market studies and will continue to do so.

“We’ve explored topics such as best practices for regular maintenance, what future facility layouts will look like, and which lanes are best suited for autonomous driving technology, to help ensure long-term preparedness on both sides,” the post added.