You can now buy beer shipped by a self-driving truck. Autonomous truck company Otto, which was founded by two former Google employees and has now joined with Uber, just made history with the “world’s first shipment by a self-driving truck.” They transported 51,744 Budweiser beer cans around 120 miles through Colorado.
An Otto truck ferried the beer from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, passing through the Denver downtown area on the way. A professional driver was present in the truck, but monitored the vehicle while in the sleeper berth rather than the driver’s seat. The truck was equipped with lidar sensors, radar, and cameras to navigate the Colorado roads, and steered, braked, and accelerated without any human help the whole trip. According to Otto, the state of Colorado offered full support for the venture.
According to an Otto blog post on the momentous drive, “When you’ll 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 envisions their self-driving trucks could help drivers. In a blog post on joining Uber, they cited an article from The Atlantic that said about a third of 3.5 million U.S. truckers will face a serious accident during their careers. Also, turnover in the trucking industry is rapid; companies lose around 90 percent of drivers yearly as the drivers seek better opportunities.
When Otto joined with Uber they hoped to create a freight network that would create such opportunities for drivers. Otto said, “Our self-driving trucks will allow drivers to rest while their truck is moving, and our platform will ensure drivers can easily find loads and are paid fairly…Self-driving trucks together with a marketplace create a virtuous cycle where everyone benefits.”