Otto Self-Driving Truck to Test on Ohio’s Public Roads

Otto's self-driving truck will be tested on two public roads in Ohio, including a 35-mile section of Route 33, a four-lane, divided highway, during regular traffic flow.

Otto’s self-driving truck will be tested in Ohio next week, reports CBS News. The self-driving truck will have a human driver on board at all times, for precautionary reasons, as it travels down two public roads.

The Otto self-driving truck will drive in regular traffic along a 35-mile section of Route 33, a four-lane, divided highway. Otto’s self-driving truck will start in Dublin and travel to the Transportation Research Center, an independent testing facility, in East Liberty, according to the report.

Otto’s self-driving truck is also expected to travel on part of the Ohio Turnpike, but details of that test have yet to be released.

Ohio Governor John Kasich wants Ohio to be at the forefront of self-driving vehicles. State officials are touting its seasonal weather changes, which will present challenges for self-driving vehicles, and Ohio’s strong relationships with automotive companies and universities.

Otto was recently acquired by Uber for nearly $700 million. The self-driving truck company made its first delivery in October 2016, using a modified Volvo 18-wheeler to drive 51,744 cans of Budweiser 120 miles from Fort Collins, Colo. to Colorado Springs.

Otto says the human truck driver was out of the driver’s seat for the entire highway portion of the Colo. trip, monitoring the self-driving system from the back of the truck. The human driver did intervene during city driving and to back up the 18-wheeler towards the loading dock at its final destination.

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The test in Colo. was carefully planned with a police detail trailing behind the self-driving truck at a time (1 am) when traffic was light. After the test ended, Shailen Bhatt, executive director of Colorado’s Department of Transportation, said it will be 5-10 years before self-driving trucks are transporting goods on a regular basis.

“It’s hard to make predictions about the future, but I think we are going to have autonomous trucks here in the short-to-medium term. I think in five to 10 years, there will be a lot more trucks driving autonomously, but I don’t think this will take drivers out of the truck.”

“It drove right down the center of the lane, it adjusted its speed to other trucks and cars around it. There was one instance where a car slowed down to about 35 mph for some reason and the truck slowed down to the appropriate distance, so to me that was striking how well the truck performed.”

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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.
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