J.B. Hunt, Waymo to expand Wayfair autonomous delivery pilot

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Wayfair is having goods delivered by self-driving trucks.

A test of self-driving delivery trucks at direct-to-consumer home furnishings retailer Wayfair is widening in scale.

Supply chain solutions provider J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. and Google-owned autonomous driving technology provider Waymo are launching a new pilot to deliver goods for J.B. Hunt customer Wayfair. The latest pilot, which follows an original 2021 test of J.B. Hunt-Waymo automated delivery at Wayfair, will span six-plus weeks during July and August 2022. It will take place along the I-45 corridor between Houston and Dallas, the location of J.B. Hunt and Waymo’s initial Wayfair pilot.

The latest effort will be the first in-depth transportation of home furnishings retail freight between J.B. Hunt and Waymo Via (the company’s autonomous Class 8 trucking unit based on Waymo Driver autonomous driving technology). Throughout the multi-week pilot, J.B. Hunt, Waymo and Wayfair will monitor and evaluate data relating to delivery logistics, loading and unloading freight, autonomous performance, and factors influencing the overall experience.

The pilot will use J.B. Hunt 360° online freight transportation technology to automate processes such as check calls and transactions to improve driving efficiency. A commercially licensed driver and a software technician will be in the cab for the duration of each trip to monitor the Waymo Driver solution’s operations.

Following a successful pilot in 2021, J.B. Hunt and Waymo extended their collaboration earlier this year with the goal of completing the first fully autonomous commercial freight transport. During the pilot, more than 862,000 pounds of freight were moved, with no accidents and 100% on-time pick-up and delivery. This latest pilot will be Wayfair’s first large-scale initiative using Level 4 autonomous vehicle technology (fully autonomous with a cockpit that allows a human driver to request control) to transport freight.

“At Wayfair, innovation is at the core of everything we do, and this pilot with J.B. Hunt and Waymo is a great example of this,” said Sean Halligan, Wayfair chief global supply chain officer. “We’re excited to continue our work with J.B. Hunt and their willingness to collaborate with us on this autonomous commercial vehicle test as a part of our overall strategy to evolve our logistics strategies and end-to-end supply chain solutions.”

“Real-time testing with customers like Wayfair is critical to making autonomous freight movement a viable solution in the future,” said Craig Harper, chief sustainability officer and executive VP at J.B. Hunt. “Every supply chain is unique, so it’s important that customers can work alongside J.B. Hunt and Waymo to ensure that advanced autonomous technology will create capacity that meets their needs. Through shared experiences, technology integration and innovative thinking, autonomous technology can help us advance J.B. Hunt’s mission to create the most efficient transportation network in North America.”

 “Expanding our alliance with J.B. Hunt and beginning to move freight together for Wayfair is an exciting next step toward applying the Waymo Driver technology to commercial goods delivery,” said John Verdon, trucking lead, business development and partnerships at Waymo. “We couldn’t be more delighted to work alongside companies who share our innovative spirit and excitement for what autonomous driving technology can mean for the trucking industry.”

Walmart tests autonomous delivery
Wayfair is not alone in participating in pilots of self-driving delivery trucks. In November 2021, Walmart became the first company to use autonomous delivery trucks, supplied by Gatik, with no safety driver in the “middle mile” of its supply chain.