Ubers may not move any faster than taxis, but the company overall is moving a lot faster than its competition. In addition to launching self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, they've now successfully performed a test run of a self-driving tractor trailer loaded up with beer.
Back in August Uber acquired Otto, a company working on autonomous trucking, and together the partnership has already made history. Last month they partnered with Anheuser-Busch to deliver "the first known commercial shipment of goods under autonomous operations," hauling 2,000 cases of Budweiser from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs:
As you saw in the video, the truck itself isn't proprietary; it's a Volvo. What Otto has done is develop a kit consisting of software, camera sensors and radar that fleet operators can retrofit to existing trucks.
Here are some relevant numbers:
- Otto's kit will reportedly cost around $30,000.
- A U.S. truck driver's median salary is $40,000.
- A U.S. private fleet truck driver's median salary is $74,000.
- Uber purchased Otto for $670 million.
- The U.S. trucking industry's 2015 revenue was $726 billion.
The math all seems to work, having trucks that can run 24-7 will be attractive to fleet operators and the technology appears very close to ready. The next barrier to be cleared before widespread adoption will be to do with regulations; it's worth noting that Colorado was chosen as the site of the test run because they do not yet have the prohibitive laws on autonomous driving as some other states, and Otto was able to work with the Colorado Department of Transportation to get the trial run green-lit.
In terms of human beings' lives, one of the benefits of autonomous trucking is that accident rates will dive once the technology is perfected. The cost, of course, is that driving a truck will disappear as a profession.
Sources: Autoblog, Autoweek, Car & Driver, CNN, Fortune, USA Today