Otto, the self-driving truck company acquired by Uber for nearly $700 million, made its first delivery. Using a modified Volvo 18-wheeler that has dozens of cameras and sensors, the Otto self-driving truck drove 120 miles on Oct. 20, 2016 carrying 51,744 cans of Budweiser from Fort Collins, Colo. to Colorado Springs.
This was the first time commercial cargo was delivered by a self-driving truck. The Budweiser cans even had a special message on them that read: “First delivery by self-driving truck.”
Otto says the human truck driver was out of the driver’s seat for the entire highway portion of the trip, monitoring the self-driving system from the back of the truck. It’s a little concerning the human driver isn’t near the steering wheel in case of an emergency. Check out the photo below, certainly seems like the human driver could be positioned better. Otto says at no point was human intervention required on the highway.
The human driver did intervene during city driving and to back up the 18-wheeler towards the loading dock at its final destination.
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“This shipment is the next step towards our vision for a safe and productive future across our highways,” Otto writes on its website. “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. 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.”
A human driver sat in the back of Otto’s self-driving truck for the entire 120-mile highway drive. (Credit: Otto)
The Otto self-driving truck maintained an average speed of 55 MPH and was followed by a Colorado state patrol the entire way. Otto’s self-driving technology includes $30,000 worth of additional hardware that works with any big rig that has an automatic transmission.
When Uber acquired Otto in August, it said it will continue to run the self-driving truck company as a separate brand. And it’s a strong one. Otto has an extremely talented team of engineers, led by former Google employees Anthony Levandowski, Lior Ron, Don Burnette, and Claire Delaunay. Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick called the partnership between Otto and Uber a “dream team.”
Otto has been developing a self-driving kit that can be retrofitted into trucks that are already on the road. Uber said that parts of Otto’s technology will be incorporated into its self-driving taxis and will be used to start an Uber-like service for long-haul trucking in the U.S.
Otto says long-haul transit is vital for nearly 70 percent of things consumers buy. Beer must be high on the list.
The emergency braking system inside Otto’s self-driving truck. (Credit: Otto)