SAN FRANCISCO – Of course, the first commercial delivery via a self-driving truck would have to be beer—in this instance, 2,000 cases of Budweiser, the New York Times reports. Yesterday, Otto, the self-driving vehicle operation owned by Uber, revealed the truck had finished a 120-mile trip from Fort Collins, Colo., to Colorado Springs, with no incidents.
Uber has been investing in self-driving cars, but commercial trucking done by robots is kind of a new thing. “We think this technology is inching closer to commercial availability,” said Lior Ron, co-founder of Otto.
Some see the investment into self-driving commercial delivery vehicles as proof of Uber’s larger plans to morph into a huge transportation hub that transports people, goods and meals. CEO Travis Kalanick has mentioned his vision of manned and unmanned transportation options in the future.
With a yearly revenue of more than $720 billion last year, according to the American Trucking Association, it appears Uber is seriously figuring out how to break into that market. “We view self-driving trucks as the future, and we want to be a part of that,” said James Sembrot, senior director of logistics strategy at Anheuser-Busch.
For the trial beer run, a trained driver sat in the truck’s cabin at all times as a safety check, but nothing happened that required driver intervention. Otto will conduct further tests on different roads and weather conditions as part of the pilot program.