Ex-Googlers Are Now Making Autonomous Trucks

By Jamie Condliffe on at

The world is incredibly excited about autonomous cars, but there’s another useful — albeit arguably less exciting — form of transport that will probably drive itself sooner: trucks. Now, a team of ex-Google engineers is trying its hand at building these autonomous behemoths.

The start-up Otto has just come out of stealth-mode, reports Mark Harris on Backchannel. Among the team are Anthony Levandowski, who worked on Google’s first self-driving car, and Lior Ron, who used to be a prominent figure at Google Maps. They’re joined by members from Apple, Tesla and Here Maps, too.

Self-driving trucks are probably easier to turn into a commercial reality than their family car equivalent. That’s mainly because they tend stick to motorways for most of their journeys, which are easier to drive on than complex city streets. The company has already fitted out three brand-new Volvo big rigs with a variety of sensors, including Lidar, radar and plain-old cameras. Harris reports that they’ve already been tested on the roads of Nevada without a driver behind the wheel.

Otto claims that the self-driving kit it’s making is designed to be fitted to new trucks, not old ones, and promises that it will be affordable. Even so, it’ll have some competition: while most media coverage centres on self-driving cars, there’s plenty of work being done by big-name vehicle-makers on self-driving trucks, and a convoy of the things already drove across Europe earlier this year. [Backchannel]