How waymo adjusted its driver for autonomous trucking

The Waymo Driver has been at work bringing on San Francisco streets providing taxi services, and trucking on highways between Dallas and Houston for over a month now. Part of what makes Waymo’s system successful is the fact that it has millions of miles of real world and simulated driving experience that it uses in its trucking and taxi services.

The challenges

Waymo has been working with Daimler Truck to build a redundant, L4 ready chassis for the Waymo Driver. Truck cabs sit on shock absorbers above the wheels, which means that oftentimes the cab moves independently from the chassis below it. To combat these issues, Waymo made longer range sensors that could detect objects at greater distances.

The sensor suite

waymo full sensor suite

Waymo’s cars have three types of sensors: LiDAR, cameras and radar. Each sensor works together to give the vehicle a clear view of the world around it in any condition. Waymo adjusted each sensor to be better suited to trucking. The perimeter LiDar works alongside a shorter-rangeLiDAR.

waymo lidar

Waymo’s Via trucks spend much of their time on long stretches of highways. The cameras need to be able to see things at greater distances to better predict and plan what the truck will do next. The trucks are also fitted with thermal cameras to improve visibility at night.

waymo camera

Waymo’s radar sensors can detect and track objects over 500 meters away. Radar sensors help the car to see in less than ideal conditions, like fog and rain. They’re unaffected by over-exposure, a low-angle sun or under-ex exposure at night.

waymo radar

Waymo’s self-driving system has a single central perception dome on top of the car, but that isn’t possible with Class 8 trucking. Instead, the company put the sensors on a single horizontal bar across the cab. With LiDAR on each side of the bar, the Driver is able to keep track of the movement of the trailer.

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