Autonomous semitrucks are rolling along metro Phoenix freeways

Image credit || Waymo

By Ryan Randazzo || Arizona Republic

Bob Kreps hoists himself into the seat of the cool blue Peterbuilt and starts scanning the instrument panel on the semitruck that, momentarily, will drive itself down the highway.

The truck operated by Waymo of Mountainview, California, is about to show off how it can merge, follow at a safe distance and move over for disabled vehicles without human input, which all are a bit more complicated for heavy commercial trucks than for the passenger vehicles the company also runs in Arizona.

The company gave The Arizona Republic the first close-up view of the technology Wednesday during test rides on Loop 202 and Interstate 10.

Besides the usual speedometer and fuel gauge, this truck has three large screens around the dashboard, giving the two operators a view of what the lidar, radar and arrays of cameras outside the truck are detecting.

Two of the screens, one for each of the front seats, resemble moving architectural drawings, or maybe an early generation video game. They represent what the truck “sees,” with other vehicles depicted as purple rectangles and humans by yellow rectangles.

A third screen shows an overhead view of the truck with vehicles and pedestrians depicted more realistically as they move around the loading dock of the Chandler depot where Waymo houses the trucks. These are the same type of monitors found in Waymo taxis operating in Arizona.

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