Uber joined forces with AB InBev on what they claim is the world’s first commercial delivery by an autonomous vehicle.
A tractor-trailer hauled a load of beer down Colorado highway Interstate 25 last week. This would ordinarily be no big deal, but this beer run was different. According to a report by Bloomberg, no one was behind the wheel. The driver was catching a nap in the sleeping compartment, and the truck was taking care of the driving, courtesy of Uber and AB InBev. The two companies partnered to bring the world what they say is the first ever commercial delivery by autonomous vehicle.
The site reported that the 18-wheeler cruised down the highway early in the morning, with light traffic, clear skies and a police escort. The journey took over 120 miles and was hailed as a victory for Uber’s self-driving vehicle group, Otto.
“We wanted to show that the basic building blocks of the technology are here; we have the capability of doing that on a highway,” said Lior Ron, the president and co-founder of Uber’s Otto unit. “We are still in the development stages, iterating on the hardware and software.”
According to AB InBev, autonomous trucks could save them $50 million a year in the U.S., even if they still required drivers to ride along for safety. The company said reduced fuel expenses and an improved delivery schedule would provide the savings.
Not everyone is sold on autonomous vehicles though, said the Bloomberg report. The trucking industry is worried about potential job losses, and last May’s death of a driver using Telsa’s autopilot technology is still fresh on the public’s minds. Truck drivers can rest easy, at least for now, as the trucks can only be used on highways and Uber says they still believe drivers will be needed to supervise the autonomous operations.