In a 10-year strategic partnership, autonomous trucking startup Waabi will provide billions of miles of driverless capacity to Uber Freight.
Waabi’s test fleet will begin commercial pilots with Uber Freight shippers between Dallas and Houston this week. Waabi will eventually switch to a Driver-as-a-Service model where carriers buy trucks with Waabi’s Driver and join Uber Freight.
Waabi’s first commercial partnership is with Uber, two years after its launch. Waabi’s AI-first approach explains its fast market entry. Waabi World, a high-fidelity closed-loop simulator, tests and teaches self-driving software in real time. Waabi has a secret sauce for deploying and scaling faster than competitors.
Waabi says so. But results speak for themselves.
“Waabi is open for business, and it’s open for business big time,” founder and CEO Raquel Urtasun told .
Before Uber sold ATG to Aurora Innovation in 2020, Urtasun led it. As part of its commercial partnership with Aurora, Uber Freight operates two lanes from Dallas to Houston and Fort Worth to El Paso.
Uber Freight’s partnership with Waabi resembles Waymo Via’s. In June 2022, they began a 10-year, multi-phase partnership. In July 2023, Waymo halted its self-driving truck program and focused on robotaxi development.
Initial deployment tie-ups are similar. Uber Freight and Waabi have a more integrated technology partnership.
“We’re talking about really connecting the software systems of both companies — network optimization, Uber Freight app, load bundling, reducing empty miles, sustainability and data benefits,” said Uber Freight head Lior Ron. “We haven’t really gone that far in connecting the robot truck and logistics network software systems intimately.”
To reduce adoption friction, Urtasun called the partnership a “Driver-as-a-Service bundle” that gives carriers access to the entire AV trucking ecosystem. This bundle includes transfer hubs, load matching, roadside assistance, and maintenance.
Due to the complexity of the partnerships, Uber Freight and Waabi have sought shippers that can commit to five to 10-year pilots to understand how AVs will affect operations, supply chain, and network deployment.
“From our perspective, it’s a continuous deployment and ramp up,” Ron said—Uber Freight has hundreds of shippers waiting to deploy AV tech.
Waabi will start running freight for shippers on one Texas lane between distribution centers, but it hopes to quickly expand beyond the Houston-Dallas corridor and Texas. For initial testing, all trucks will have a safety driver in the front seat, but the bundle will remove the driver for autonomous driving.
“When Waabi is ready to get the driver out, we can basically start a full commercial driverless deployment,” Ron said.
Uber Freight, which lost 30% year-over-year in the second quarter due to “the challenging freight market cycle,” is betting long-term on Waabi.
“We’re looking at the exponential growth that will start when the driver is out,” Ron said. Because shippers say, ‘I needed that tech yesterday,’ demand explodes and bottom line implications follow.”