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Photo: Waymo

In one fell swoop, Waymo hired 13 robotics experts from defunct consumer robot maker Anki, including co-founder and former CEO Boris Sofman, to lead its nascent trucking initiative.

Why it matters: Waymo, a leader in robo-taxi development, wants to adapt its self-driving technology to other platforms, including commercial trucks. The hiring of Sofman and his all-star engineering team from Anki could accelerate that effort.

The big picture: Truck drivers are in short supply, which is why start-ups like TuSimple and Embark along with established trucking giants like Daimler and Volvo Group are racing to develop commercial trucks that can drive themselves.

  • Waymo has also been working in this space, but has been fairly quiet about its progress.
  • The company recently resumed testing in Arizona, after completing a pilot in Atlanta delivering goods for Google’s logistics team.

Details: Sofman will report to Waymo CTO Dmitri Dolgov and lead Waymo’s commercial truck efforts from San Francisco.

  • Sofman is not new to self-driving cars. As a student at Carnegie Mellon University, he worked with some Waymo alumni in the AV labs.
  • The group includes 5 PhD engineers, mostly from CMU's famed robotics program, as well as Stanford, MIT and Georgia Tech. 

Background: Anki was a high-profile consumer robotics startup that came out of Carnegie Mellon University's robotics program. Despite $200 million in funding, the company folded in April, laying off its entire staff after failing to raise additional capital.

What to watch: Dolgov talked about Waymo's wider ambitions at MIT Tech Review’s EmTech Digital conference in March.

  • “Our goal is not to build a car, we’re really building a driver. You can put this driver into all kinds of commercial applications, from ride-hailing, trucking, deliveries, connecting people to public transit and personally-owned vehicles."
  • "The nice thing about all those properties is that while the specialization layers are very different, the core technology, and the hardest problems that you’re trying to solve on research and engineering are exactly the same.” 

Go deeper

Harry and Meghan accuse British royal family of racism

Photo: Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via Reuters

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle delivered a devastating indictment of the U.K. royal family in their conservation with Oprah Winfrey: Both said unnamed relatives had expressed concern about what the skin tone of their baby would be. And they accused "the firm" of character assassination and "perpetuating falsehoods."

Why it matters: An institution that thrives on myth now faces harsh reality. The explosive two-hour interview gave an unprecedented, unsparing window into the monarchy: Harry said his father and brother "are trapped," and Markle revealed that the the misery of being a working royal drove her to thoughts of suicide.

Updated 3 hours ago - Axios Twin Cities

In photos: Thousands rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Demonstrators on March 7 outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murdering George Floyd, will begin in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of protesters marched through Minneapolis' streets Sunday, urging justice for George Floyd on the eve of the start of former police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death, per AFP.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start Monday, with jury selection procedures.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
6 hours ago - Health

Pfizer CEO feels "liberated" after taking COVID vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.