A self-driving truck of Uber-owned company Otto

Uber’s self-driving truck delivers first Budweiser shipment

Image credit: Reuters

A self-driving truck by Uber-owned company Otto has delivered a shipment of Budweiser beer across half of the state of Colorado.

The first of its kind delivery took place last week but Otto and Budweiser-brewer Anheuser-Busch only announced the news on Tuesday.

A human driver was present in the vehicle throughout the journey but once the truck reached the Interstate 25 highway, he left the driver’s seat as well as the driver’s cabin and spent the rest of the journey in the sleeping berth.

“The incredible success of this pilot shipment is an example of what is possible when you deploy self-driving technology,” said Otto Co-Founder Lior Ron.

“By embracing this technology, both organisations are actively contributing to the creation of a safer and more efficient transportation network. We are excited to have reached this milestone together, and look forward to further rolling out our technology on the nation’s highways.”

The self-driving truck transported the beer from Anheuser-Busch’s facility in Loveland, Colorado, to Colorado Springs some 160 km away.

“Anheuser-Busch is passionate about innovation and exploring ways to improve the safety, sustainability, and efficiency of the industries our business touches,” said James Sembrot, Senior Director for Logistics Strategy at Anheuser-Busch. “We admire Otto’s vision that will shape the future of self-driving transportation. As we continue to partner with long-haul carriers to ship our beers, we hope to see this technology widely deployed across our highways to improve safety for all road users and work towards a low-emissions future.”

Both companies hope the technology will help improve safety as up to 94 per cent of fatal accidents are a result of human error. Nearly 50 per cent of fatal accidents happen on highways.

The technology could also improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions to which freight deliveries are a major contributor.

Many companies are also currently dealing with the lack of skilled drivers. Frequently, drivers are forced to work longer hours as a result, which in turn threatens safety.

Otto envisions the technology would enable drivers to rest during long journeys when covering long highway stretches. The driver would still be paid for the time he or she spends in the vehicle although not at controls.

“Teaming with Otto to deploy self-driving technology on the roads of Colorado is a monumental step forward in advancing safety solutions that will help Colorado move towards zero deaths on our roads,” said Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shailen Bhatt. “Colorado will continue to focus on working with Otto and others on how to safely deploy this technology on our roads.”

Otto, established in January 2016, was acquired by Uber in August this year. The company’s trucks are fitted with radars, cameras and laser sensors that allow them to sense their environment and drive autonomously.

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