The global pandemic continues to highlight the need for fast and reliable delivery of everyday goods, and trucking accounts for more than 70% of freight in America.
Autonomous driving technology being developed by Waymo, which operates an autonomous ride-hailing service in Phoenix in addition to testing its fully autonomous Class 8 trucks, could boost the sector further.
Steph John, program manager for Waymo Via, the company’s trucking program, spoke with Sonoran Living about the technology that drives autonomous trucks, its benefits to the industry, and possible career opportunities.
Waymo has spent more than a decade building the World’s Most Experienced Driver, which it calls the Waymo Driver. The Waymo Driver, a host of hardware, software, and a powerful AI system that powers the company’s ride-hailing service, has been applied to the company’s Class 8 trucks since 2017.
“I see us really pushing the industry forward as we continue to advance this technology,” said John, whose job involves managing day-to-day operations and testing missions for Waymo’s trucking program.
John said Waymo’s autonomous driving technology holds the promise to support the trucking industry, which faces a driver shortfall as drivers age out of the workforce.
“There is an immense need for deliveries and trucks to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’; without it, we wouldn’t be able to get a lot of things we need on a daily basis,” John said.
She emphasized that Waymo’s autonomous driving technology could also support safety in the industry. The Waymo Driver is designed to be constantly vigilant, follow traffic laws, and make smart driving decisions while taking other road users into account.
John also underscored how the autonomous driving technology sector is bringing new opportunities for women like her.
“There are just so many jobs that are coming to this industry that I see a lot of women coming into this technology very soon,” John said.
John, who has a background in automotive and diesel mechanics and as a freight broker, started her career with Waymo working with fully autonomous passenger vehicles in Chandler, Arizona. She was one of the first people to be invited to join Waymo’s trucking unit when the program was launched in 2017.
“It can be intimidating at first, but the great thing about working for Waymo is the culture we have of moving this technology forward and making the roads safer, which I think everyone can get behind,” she said.
John added that Waymo is currently hiring and that people can learn more about Waymo careers by visiting Waymo.com/joinus.