Autonomous trucking is helping strengthen an essential sector and creating new career opportunities for women, Steph John, program manager for Waymo Via, the company’s trucking program, told ABC15 Arizona.
“I see us really pushing the industry forward as we continue to advance this technology,” John said.
Trucking accounts for more than 70% of freight in America, but a projected driver shortage means demand for the industry is surging while trained drivers are hard to find. John said the technology being developed by fully autonomous driving company Waymo could address the shortfall.
Waymo began testing its fully autonomous driving technology in Class 8 trucks in 2017 but has been developing that same system of hardware, software and powerful AI – which it collectively calls the Waymo Driver – in passenger vehicles for more than 10 years. The Waymo Driver has driven more than 20 million miles autonomously on public roads across more than 25 US cities, and more than 20 billion miles in simulation.
“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.
John said Waymo’s fully autonomous technology could also make trucking safer, as it is designed to be constantly vigilant, follow traffic laws, and make the smart driving decisions while taking other road users into account.
New Roads for Women in Trucking, Technology
Prior to joining Waymo, John worked in automotive and diesel mechanics and was a freight broker. Her career with Waymo began with a job working on Waymo’s fully autonomous passenger vehicles in Chandler, Arizona. That led to a new career path when Waymo invited her to join its trucking team in 2017.
“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 told Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving.
John said she never imagined she’d have a career in autonomous driving. Now she manages day-to-day operations and testing missions for Waymo’s trucking program.
“You know how in high school they ask you what you see yourself doing in ten years? Well I can honestly say I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to be behind the wheel testing an autonomous vehicle or a truck for that matter.” - Steph John, Program Manager for Waymo Via
John emphasized that the autonomous driving technology sector is creating new career opportunities while advancing an important mission.
“It can be intimidating at first, but the great thing for 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.
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