- C.H. Robinson and Waymo are partnering to bring autonomous-vehicle technology to the broker's network, the companies said Wednesday. The long-term agreement combines the Waymo Driver with C.H. Robinson's Navisphere logistics platform.
- To start, the companies will focus on multiple pilots in the Dallas-Houston transportation lane, where Waymo's test fleet will haul freight for one of C.H. Robinson's largest customers. Though the companies did not give names, C.H. Robinson Chief Commercial Officer Chris O’Brien said during a press briefing Tuesday that customer interest in the pilots has been "enormous."
- The partnership also creates a path to bring small- and medium-sized carriers into the AV conversation, which has primarily focused on large fleets. Eventually, C.H. Robinson could act as a sales agent or be involved in financing for interested carriers, O'Brien said.
J.B. Hunt is testing Waymo technology. Knight-Swift is partnering with Embark. Schneider is partnering with TuSimple. U.S. Xpress — which is also working with TuSimple — announced a collaboration with Aurora on Monday.
For fleets with significantly fewer resources, these types of partnerships are more difficult to come by.
But now, in its partnership with Waymo, C.H. Robinson considers itself a voice for fleets with fewer than 400 tractors, which comprise most of the available capacity in the U.S.
"One thing we think we can uniquely do with Waymo is usher [autonomy] in, in a way that includes the voice of the small- and medium-sized carrier, bringing that efficiency and time savings to them," O'Brien said.
C.H. Robinson envisions itself in consultant role for carriers it works closely with, such as those that are dedicated.
The company has explored being a sales agent, consolidating procurement across multiple carriers. O'Brien also outlined how the company could suggest leasing or purchasing an AV during year-end conversations with its dedicated carriers.
"We see this as just one more way that we can bring an option to them that is different, and that has all the advantages of efficiency and labor savings that you can bring to the table," O'Brien said.
Efficiencies should materialize in the form of less downtime, Waymo Head of Commercialization for Trucking Charlie Jatt said during the press event. And working with C.H. Robinson's freight-matching and shipment-optimization tools can reduce deadheading.
AVs could also be a tool for tackling the industrywide dearth of drivers. O'Brien noted how shorter-haul jobs are more appealing to drivers who prioritize home time. AVs would be used for OTR operations, freeing up drivers to take more short hauls.
But at this point, AV adoption is in its early stages. It will take years for the industry to recognize any significant benefits from the equipment — save for those directly involved in pilots. The focus now is on collecting data to inform how the technology will eventually roll out in scale.
"We look at this stage and the next stages as learning," O'Brien said. "We thought it was important to be involved for those medium-sized carriers."