Uber’s Otto completes first autonomous trucking delivery
October 26, 2016
Otto, a self-driving truck company acquired by Uber in August for a reported $680 million, recently hit a major milestone: A truck outfitted with its technology drove 100 miles on a Colorado highway without human intervention to deliver 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer.
Before we get too excited, there was a driver present for the duration of the trip who took control once the vehicle exited the highway. But it's still a notable exhibition of what Uber saw in Otto, which installs its tech into existing truck models rather than designing its own fleet. The company is still iterating its hardware and software with the goal of improving safety in the trucking industry, where most accidents are caused by human error.
This news comes a little over a month after Uber launched its autonomous taxi program in Pittsburgh, enabling some patrons to hail self-driving cars. Those cars, however, aren't fully autonomous either—there's a driver in place to guide the car when necessary. While the launch of the Pittsburgh program and Otto's successful commercial delivery are both (to a large degree) marketing ploys, the latter may be more a herald of things to come. The vast majority of driving in the trucking industry takes place on highways, where much less driver assistance is required compared to city roads.