Automated trucking hit a milestone last week, with Uber-acquired upstart Otto delivering 51 cases of Budweiser in Colorado Springs, Colo., last week. The truck left Fort Collins, Colo., last Thursday before dawn, navigated through downtown Denver and then made its delivery in Colorado Springs.
The truck, a Volvo VNL, uses cameras, radar, and lidar sensors to see the road. Otto’s system controlled the truck’s acceleration, braking and steering to carry the beer exit-to-exit with no human intervention. Otto co-founder Lior Ron says the truck’s driver was out of the driver’s seat for the entire 120-mile trek down Interstate 25 and monitored the system from the sleeper. All the driver had to do was drive the truck onto the Interstate and take over as it left the Interstate to its final destination at the distributor.
“The driver is a co-pilot,” Ron says. “We’re the technology that helps him be safer and more productive.”
Ron says his company worked closely with Colorado state transportation agencies in helping them understand the technologies involved and setting parameters for the test.
“Colorado was very collaborative and open minded,” he says. “We were able to partner with the state. We believe this could set the model that can be replicated across many states as well.”
Ron’s team analyzed traffic patterns on Interstate 25 in order to select a time and day they felt optimized safety. They settled on shortly after midnight Thursday morning. While the roads weren’t crowded on the two-plus hour drive, Otto’s truck still had to deal with sharing the road.