Alphabet Inc.'s self-driving car company Waymo is exploring self-driving truck technology, the company said last week.
The initiative was originally reported by BuzzFeed after the website received a photograph of a Waymo test truck from a source and confirmed it with the company. Waymo said the truck was being driven by a human and was used to collect data.
"Self-driving technology can transport people and things much more safely than we do today and reduce the thousands of trucking-related deaths each year," a Waymo spokesperson told BuzzFeed. "We're taking our eight years of experience in building self-driving hardware and software and conducting a technical exploration into how our technology can integrate into a truck."
Other companies are eyeing long-haul trucking as an initial step in autonomous-vehicle deployment.
Mercedes-Benz tested a semiautonomous truck in Germany in 2015. Uber's Otto tested the first driverless truck in the U.S. in Colorado in 2016. A startup named Embark is also working in this area, and recently Nvidia announced a partnership with PACCAR, a global manufacturer of commercial transport trucks.
The prospect of self-driving trucks has sparked concerns of job losses. In 2014, trucking was the most popular job in 29 states, a National Public Radio analysis of U.S. census data found. One estimate predicts autonomous trucking could eliminate 1.7 million trucking jobs in the next decade.
Yet there is also a shortage of truck drivers to meet growing demand. In 2015, trucking companies were short nearly 50,000 qualified drivers in the U.S., according to the American Trucking Association.
Long-haul trucking is expected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, representing about 100,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.