Otto has accomplished a major milestone on the road to autonomous freight delivery with the world’s first shipment of goods by a self-driving truck of 51,744 cans of Budweiser beer.
Founded in January this year by Anthony Levandowski, one of the original members of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, together with Lior Ron, who had served as the head of product for Google Maps for five years, Otto was acquired by Uber in August and is currently being re-branded as Uber Freight.
In partnership with the brewer Anheuser-Busch, and with full support from the State of Colorado, the company transported 51,744 cans of special-branded Budweiser beer from Fort Collins, through downtown Denver, to Colorado Springs. By using cameras, radar and lidar sensors mounted on the vehicle to ‘see’ the road, Otto’s system controlled the acceleration, braking, and steering of the truck to carry the beer from exit-to-exit on the highway without any human intervention.
The addition of the aftermarket hardware and software systems turns the Volvo semi-truck into an SAE level-4 autonomous vehicle, which means it is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip, although there is still an option for human driving. For the Budweiser delivery, Otto’s professional driver was out of the driver’s seat for the entire 120-mile (193km) journey down I-25, and monitored the self-driving system from the sleeper berth in the back of the cab.
Otto’s original mission, now shared by Uber, is to rethink goods transportation, starting with self-driving trucks and a platform to connect truckers with loads, in order to maximize the efficiency of the freight transport industry. The company says the Budweiser shipment is the next step toward its vision for a safe and productive future across highways, with the ultimate aim of making the transportation network safer and more efficient for drivers and consumers alike, starting with a can of beer that was shipped by a self-driving truck.
Otto said on its blog, “With an Otto-equipped vehicle, truck drivers will have the opportunity to rest during long stretches of highway while the truck continues to drive and make money for them. When you’ll see a truck driving down the road with nobody in the front seat, you’ll know that it’s highly unlikely to get into a collision, drive aggressively, or waste a single drop of fuel. Our partnership with Anheuser-Busch is just beginning, and our companies are excited to transform commercial transportation together. If you’d like to be a part of this transformation, sign up.”