UberFreight is celebrating a milestone for autonomous freight deliveries after hauling 2,000 cases of Budweiser across 120 miles in Colorado.
The feat was accomplished by Otto. It’s an autonomous trucking startup Uber bought last year. The company is headed by former Google Maps product lead Lior Ron and Google Car engineer Anthony Levandowski.
Otto’s modified semi-trailer truck departed a weight station in Fort Collins, passing through Denver to Colorado Springs on Interstate 25. A professional driver watched from the sleeper cab as the truck drove itself from exit to exit.
“This milestone marks the first time in history that a self-driving vehicle has shipped commercial cargo, making it a landmark achievement for self-driving technology, the state of Colorado, and the transportation industry,” the company said in a statement.
All this said, a human driver must still take control of the vehicle to get on the highway and then exit to the final destination.
Otto suggests its technology has market potential in its current form, allowing drivers to catch up on sleep while the truck is autonomously cruising for hundreds of miles on the highway. Drivers are currently limited to a certain number of ‘on duty’ hours each day, helping prevent accidents. Current laws would presumably require amendment for semi-autonomous operation. Many states also have laws requiring a human ‘driver’ to stay alert and behind the wheel when the vehicle is driving itself, posing another potential regulatory roadblock to nationwide deployment.
The demonstration suggests Uber is eyeing a potential foray into the commercial shipping business, rather than simply acquiring Otto for technology and talent that can be used to develop an autonomous taxi service.
Take a look at this video, it is truly amazing.