The First Autonomous Truck Delivery was Pretty American
We’ve been talking a lot about autonomous cars and the future of driving. Uber-owned technology company Otto, which focuses on making self-driving semi trucks, has just taken a big step forward by making the first autonomous truck delivery in the world and traveled autonomously from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs. The cargo being delivered, more than 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer, was so American it hurts.
Before anyone gets upset, Otto and Wired would like to point out that the self-driving semi isn’t out to send hard-working truck drivers to the unemployment line. According to Lior Ron, one of Otto’s co-founders, the Otto trucks are completely autonomous on the highways, but are not able to handle city streets with pedestrians and stop signs. The ultimate goal is to make trucking less of a job that requires days away from home, but a local job instead. Trucks would be sent on the highway to do the heavy lifting, getting the big chunks of driving out of the way. The trucks could then stop at depots and meet human drivers who would then take them into town for deliveries and reloading before they are sent back on their way.
Ottos is quick to say that there is currently a shortage of semi truck drivers in the United States, so autonomous trucks could really help pick up the pace of shipping. Right now, Otto test trucks still have a driver (and sometimes an Otto engineer), but they are free to put the car on self-driving mode and go do something else, like eat a meal or take a nap.
The best part about this technology so far is that it can be retrofitted to a truck already on the road, and doesn’t require shipping companies to buy new fleets. Hopefully these trucks will become more common soon.
News Source: Wired