The self-driving space has seen a lot of interest from industry heavyweights like Google, Apple, and Tesla in the past year. Uber too had acquired a tech startup, Otto, and partnered with Swedish automaker Volvo in August 2016, to make inroads in the self-driving space. Otto on Tuesday announced that it had partnered with Budweiser and accomplished a milestone by completing the world’s first shipment by a self-driving truck.
Image credit- Otto
Otto was founded in 2016 by Don Burnette, Lior Ron, Claire Delaunay, and Anthony Levandowski and was 90 members strong when it was acquired by Uber. In a release on its blog, Uber's Otto noted that in partnership with Anheuser-Busch (parent company behind Budweiser), and with support from the state of Colorado, Otto hauled 51,744 cans of Budweiser from Fort Collins, through downtown Denver, to Colorado Springs. The release said,
By using cameras, radar, and lidar sensors mounted on the vehicle to “see” the road, Otto’s system controlled the acceleration, braking, and steering of the truck to carry the beer exit-to-exit without any human intervention.In fact, our professional driver was out of the driver’s seat for the entire 120-mile journey down I-25, monitoring the self-driving system from the sleeper berth in the back.
Otto believes that this is the next step towards a vision for a safe and productive future across highways. The Otto team had noted that together with Uber, they aim to create the future of commercial transportation in the form of:
The team at Otto claims that because drivers shouldn’t have to choose between safety and earnings, they will be assured of rest while the self-driving trucks are in motion. Also, their platform will ensure that drivers can easily find loads and are paid fairly.
In a video, Anthony, Co-founder of Otto, described their self-driving technology as a "train on software rails." He said,
For me, the most important things computers are going to do in the next 20 years are drive trucks and cars, so it is great to be at the forefront of that.
Google has been test driving self-driving vehicles for a long time and notes that it has self-driven more than two million miles and is currently out on the streets of multiple cities — Mountain View, CA; Austin, TX; Kirkland, WA; and Metro Phoenix, AZ. Elon Musk's Tesla, which has an autopilot feature in its vehicles, recently announced that it would be adding self-driving hardware to all its vehicles to enable full autonomy. Also, Singapore's NuTonomy became the first company to launch self-driving trials for a taxi service in August 2016 and then went on to partner with Grab, Uber's local rival in Singapore.