A UBER self-driving truck made a pioneering delivery of beer in Colorado – as the driver looked on.
Built by Uber subsidiary Otto, the 18-wheel artic loaded with cases of Budweiser made the 125-mile delivery run from Fort Collins through the centre of crowded Denver to Colorado Springs using only its array of cameras, radar and sensors to read the road.
The truck carried a professional driver, but he simply monitored the progress from the sleeper berth behind the driver’s seat.
Otto said: “The trip was a fairly straight two- hour drive south on the I-25 highway, exit-to-exit,” the company said in a statement, suggesting the initial and final stretches off the main highway were handled by a driver.
This initial test drive was the beginning of a partnership with Anheuser-Busch, the largest US beer brewer, said Otto.
Founded early this year by Google Car veterans Ron and Anthony Levandowski, Otto was bought by Uber last August for $670 million. Uber is boosting its self-driving tech initiative with Levandowski now in charge of leading the ride-hailing cab giant’s expansion into new territory.
The concept behind Otto is to produce an aftermarket kit comprising radar and camera sensors that, when linked to its software, will allow the nation’s 350,000 owner-operator truckers to keep their trucks on the road longer without cutting into the carefully monitored driving time.
The Budweiser test came just six weeks after Uber launched its demonstration self-driving car service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, gaining a jump on the many manufacturers developing autonomous systems for cars and trucks.
Otto said: “This shipment is the next step towards our vision for a safe and productive future across our highways. With an Otto-equipped vehicle, truck drivers will have the opportunity to rest during long stretches of highway while the truck continues to drive and make money for them.”
Uber acquired Otto in August to combine forces on developing self-driving technology, and Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski became head of the program for both companies.
“When you see a truck driving down the road with nobody in the front seat, you’ll know that it’s highly unlikely to get into a collision, drive aggressively, or waste a single drop of fuel,” Otto said.
Otto’s and Uber’s interest in cornering the autonomous truck market is clear. In 2015, trucking brought in $726 billion revenue and accounted for 81% of all freight transport, according to the American Trucking Associations.