An Uber self-driving truck just delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser to a Colorado Springs destination.
The 18-wheel semi came equipped with $30,000 worth of specialized software and hardware from the San Francisco startup Otto, which Uber acquired in August 2016. It made the world’s first autonomous truck delivery carrying beer on a 200 kilometer (125 miles) trip from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs.
Although a professional driver manned the rig, the truck navigated its way during a two-hour drive on the I-25 highway, using only radar, sensors, and cameras to read and interpret the road.
This test took place just six weeks after Uber’s demonstration of their self-driving car service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and it means that Uber has now gained a significant lead in the race among automakers who are scrambling to develop self-piloting systems for cars and trucks.
Uber’s acquisition of Otto has allowed the two companies to combine their strengths in the field of developing self-driving technology under Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski’s leadership. Otto said that this initial test drive was in partnership with Anheuser-Busch, the largest beer brewer in the US.
The autonomous trip was “exit-to-exit,” as Otto said in a statement. The human driver drove from the brewery in Fort Collins until he had merged onto Interstate 25, and then simply punched the “engage” switch, which took the truck on an even 55 mph trip south towards Colorado Springs. He took over again to navigate the final stretch after leaving the interstate.
Currently, this technology applied primarily on highways where there are far fewer risky variables like four-way stops and jaywalking pedestrians.
Otto views this successful experiment as “the next step towards our vision for a safe and productive future across our highways,” and also noted that the Otto technology would make it possible for truck drivers to rest during uneventful stretches of the road system. Otto’s system has ‘Level 4’ autonomy, which means that once the vehicle emerges on the interstate, it operates entirely autonomously, freeing the driver to do paperwork, communicate with his employer and friends, or relax.
This information assembled by DFM, fleet management experts and the company behind Fleet Wellness®.
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