While some companies have experimented with a digital replica of the orange triangle affixed to the rear of trailers, such an arrangement would not be practical because trailers are frequently exchanged between carriers, a Waymo spokesperson said Thursday.
This marks the first time two self-driving technology companies have jointly sought an exemption from FMCSA rules.
As they’ve looked to deploy self-driving vehicles on public roads, other AV companies such as Nuro and Cruise have sought exemptions from federal motor vehicle safety standards, to use vehicles that have no traditional controls like steering wheels or brake pedals.
Nuro received the first such exemption in February 2020; Cruise is still waiting for an answer from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which governs FMVSS exemption requests.
Once published, other stakeholders and members of the public have 30 days to comment on the Aurora and Waymo exemption request.
For a chance at approval, the companies must demonstrate their proposed beacons achieve a safety level that’s equivalent to or greater than safety levels reached by conventional vehicles already on the road, according to FMCSA.
Waymo and Aurora said separate studies showed flashing lights were more effective at alerting approching motorists to hazards such as a truck pulled to the side of the road, according to their exemption request.
There’s no immediate timetable for a decision, but timing could affect how Aurora proceeds with a planned commercial, self-driving launch which is expected by the end of 2024.
It is unclear how the company might meet the requirements should it not receive an answer before the start of that commercial service.
Waymo has not stated a timeline for launching self-driving trucks. The company has previously said it is first focusing on its robotaxi business. Waymo said its internal timeline for trucks had been “slightly” delayed following January layoffs.
Aurora, on the other hand, has prioritized a commercial trucking launch, with robotaxis to follow at a later date.