Otto Self-Driving Truck Makes First Delivery: 51,744 Beers

An Otto self-driving truck made its first delivery, driving 51,744 cans of Budweiser 120 miles through Colorado, marking the first time commercial cargo was delivered by a self-driving truck.


Otto, the self-driving truck company acquired by Uber for nearly $700 million, made its first delivery. Using a modified Volvo 18-wheeler that has dozens of cameras and sensors, the Otto self-driving truck drove 120 miles on Oct. 20, 2016 carrying 51,744 cans of Budweiser from Fort Collins, Colo. to Colorado Springs.

This was the first time commercial cargo was delivered by a self-driving truck. The Budweiser cans even had a special message on them that read: “First delivery by self-driving truck.”

Otto says the human truck driver was out of the driver’s seat for the entire highway portion of the trip, monitoring the self-driving system from the back of the truck. It’s a little concerning the human driver isn’t near the steering wheel in case of an emergency. Check out the photo below, certainly seems like the human driver could be positioned better. Otto says at no point was human intervention required on the highway.

The human driver did intervene during city driving and to back up the 18-wheeler towards the loading dock at its final destination.

Robotics Business Review Analysis: Otto’s Autonomous Truck Delivery Shows Strength of Uber, Volvo Deal

“This shipment is the next step towards our vision for a safe and productive future across our highways,” Otto writes on its website. “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.”

Otto Self-Driving Truck Delivers BeerA human driver sat in the back of Otto’s self-driving truck for the entire 120-mile highway drive. (Credit: Otto)

The Otto self-driving truck maintained an average speed of 55 MPH and was followed by a Colorado state patrol the entire way. Otto’s self-driving technology includes $30,000 worth of additional hardware that works with any big rig that has an automatic transmission.

When Uber acquired Otto in August, it said it will continue to run the self-driving truck company as a separate brand. And it’s a strong one. Otto has an extremely talented team of engineers, led by former Google employees Anthony Levandowski, Lior Ron, Don Burnette, and Claire Delaunay. Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick called the partnership between Otto and Uber a “dream team.”

Otto has been developing a self-driving kit that can be retrofitted into trucks that are already on the road. Uber said that parts of Otto’s technology will be incorporated into its self-driving taxis and will be used to start an Uber-like service for long-haul trucking in the U.S.

Otto says long-haul transit is vital for nearly 70 percent of things consumers buy. Beer must be high on the list.

Otto Self-Driving TrucksThe emergency braking system inside Otto’s self-driving truck. (Credit: Otto)




About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.




Comments

Steve Crowe · October 31, 2016 · 9:33 am

Great points here, Totally_Lost. The thought of a human sleeping in an 18-wheeler while it drives itself makes me extremely uncomfortable. Imagine if a self-driving 18-wheeler crashed on Otto’s version of Autopilot. Damage would be much worse than any Tesla Autopilot crash.

Totally_Lost · October 29, 2016 · 12:41 am

And for OTTO, that means a system that detects brake failure, and will guide the truck into a run-away ramp on down grades.

It also means putting the truck in a ditch or field, to avoid a multi-car accident that it can not stop for, without hitting people.

Totally_Lost · October 29, 2016 · 12:39 am

And more importantly, that the automated system can detect failures with the vehicle, like blown tires, broken suspension and control devices, brakes, and bring the vehicle to a safe stop as well, or better than a skilled driver.

Totally_Lost · October 29, 2016 · 12:37 am

The NHTSA ruling against comma.ai clearly means that OTTO isn’t going to be shipping retrofit kits without fully proving it’s safety to the NHTSA. And in particular, prevents the human from abandoning active defensive driving skills to avoid accidents that any responsible/skilled human driver would. That means all possible cases of unexpected weather, construction, objects on highway, persons on highway, including officers, construction workers, and pedestrians on the highway, especially from a multi-car accident at night.


Totally_Lost · October 29, 2016 at 12:37 am

The NHTSA ruling against comma.ai clearly means that OTTO isn’t going to be shipping retrofit kits without fully proving it’s safety to the NHTSA. And in particular, prevents the human from abandoning active defensive driving skills to avoid accidents that any responsible/skilled human driver would. That means all possible cases of unexpected weather, construction, objects on highway, persons on highway, including officers, construction workers, and pedestrians on the highway, especially from a multi-car accident at night.

Totally_Lost · October 29, 2016 at 12:39 am

And more importantly, that the automated system can detect failures with the vehicle, like blown tires, broken suspension and control devices, brakes, and bring the vehicle to a safe stop as well, or better than a skilled driver.

Totally_Lost · October 29, 2016 at 12:41 am

And for OTTO, that means a system that detects brake failure, and will guide the truck into a run-away ramp on down grades.

It also means putting the truck in a ditch or field, to avoid a multi-car accident that it can not stop for, without hitting people.

Steve Crowe · October 31, 2016 at 9:33 am

Great points here, Totally_Lost. The thought of a human sleeping in an 18-wheeler while it drives itself makes me extremely uncomfortable. Imagine if a self-driving 18-wheeler crashed on Otto’s version of Autopilot. Damage would be much worse than any Tesla Autopilot crash.


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