Uber-owned trucking startup Otto’s first self-driving trip was a beer run

Self-driving trucks are here. And they’re bringing beer.

Uber-owned autonomous trucking company Otto on Tuesday morning announced that it completed the world’s first self-driven shipment. The cargo was 51,744 cans of Budweiser.

“Yes, you can go out right now and buy a can of beer that was shipped by a self-driving truck,” Otto quipped in a blog post announcing the delivery.

The truck traveled 120 miles through Colorado, starting in Fort Collins, hitting downtown Denver and ending up in Colorado Springs. It navigated the highway using cameras, radar and lidar laser sensors, and autonomously controlled its acceleration, braking and steering, according to Otto.

The entire time the truck was cruising on the highway, it had no human intervention. In fact the driver, Walter Martin, actually got up from behind the wheel and kept an eye on the trip from his bunk in the back of the cab. That means anyone who saw the truck out on the road would have had the disturbing experience of seeing a semi barreling down the highway with no one in the driver’s seat.

“I proclaimed to one of the technicians, I said, ‘I don’t think I could have done that better myself.’ That was an interesting moment,” Martin said in a video Otto posted on its blog.

Martin said all he did was flip a switch once he got onto the interstate, and the truck transitioned to self-driving mode. The video shows Martin leaving the driver’s seat, and the wheel moving by itself.

Uber announced that it had acquired Otto in August as part of the company’s doubling-down on self-driving efforts. Uber also is working on self-driving cars, and last month rolled out a fleet of autonomous cars to pick up passengers in Pittsburgh.

Photo: Self-driving trucking startup Otto completed its first autonomous shipment, moving a load of Budweiser beers through Colorado. (Courtesy of Otto) 

Video: Otto’s first self-driven shipment was a load of beer. (Courtesy of Otto)


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