Self-Driving Truck Completes 120-Mile Beer Run

By Carl Engelking | October 25, 2016 12:18 pm


As its first act, a self-driving truck proved it could safely deliver the most precious of cargo: 51,000 cans of Budweiser.

Otto, the self-driving vehicle company owned by Uber, on Tuesday announced its prototype had successfully shipped suds from Fort Collins, Colo., to Colorado Springs. To “see” the road, the self-driving system used an array of cameras, radar, lidar and other sensors to follow other vehicles at a safe distance and keep it between the lines. Throughout the 120-mile journey, a professional driver chilled in the sleeper cabin in the back of the truck — you know, just in case.

The delivery, however, was more symbolic than anything else — what scientists might call proof-of-concept. The human driver still navigated the vehicle onto Interstate 25 and activated its autonomous drive mode once it had merged into traffic. You see, Otto can only operate autonomously in relatively predictable highway traffic; city streets swarming with a host of random variables — bikers, pedestrians, etc. — are still too much for the system to safely handle.

Once Otto arrived at its exit, the driver once again resumed control to finish the final leg of the beer run.

In a blog post, the Otto team shared its vision of the not-so-distant future:

“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.”

Uber is getting serious about redefining the way we move people and things from point A to B. Earlier this year, Volvo Cars and Uber partnered to invest $300 million to develop a fully autonomous, road-ready vehicle by 2021. In September, a test fleet of self-driving Ubers — also with a human driver — hit the pavement in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Uber paid roughly $700 million to purchase Otto August, with eyes on tapping into the trucking industry, which generated revenues of about $726 billion dollars within the United States in 2015.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
  • cgs

    I’m not sure I’d call Budweiser the “most precious of cargo”. Maybe Blue Moon or Fat Tire or a few others I could name. But not Bud.

    • Uncle Al

      Ugly much anything else fermented from wort is better than Bud, including lambic beers fermented by whatever falls into the vat. Globalism assures Trinkvergnügen-free Belgian-Brazilian InBev otter water swill and swill light.

  • Uncle Al

    the most precious of cargo: 51,000 cans of Budweiser.” One bottle of Lagavulin. Wicked waste of punch-extruded aluminum. Does tha can liner contain Bisphenol-A? “Otto can only operate autonomously in relatively predictable highway traffic” We’ve been here before, Youtube v=_WQfZYacEAw

    When you’ll see a truck driving down the road with nobody in the front seat” Think “Windoze 8” or union firemen on diesel-electric trains.

  • OWilson

    Self driving?

    Maybe cruise control or even auto pilot ’till the next interchange.

    Move along citizen, nothing to see here.


    (Talisker is a “ladies” Scotch, from the only distillery on the Isle of Skye)

  • Lorie Franceschi

    what happens if the truck hits something and has a blow out on the tractor? What happens if an animal jumps out to cross the road and gets hit by the truck? what if there is a broke down vehicle that could not quite make it completely on to the shoulder. what if there is a wrong way drive? what it someone a has a heart attack and looses control of their vehicle in front of the truck and either swerves right in front of the truck or causes an accident right in front of the truck. If the driver is in the back “chllin” then i foresee way to many variables that are potentially dangerous.

    • OWilson

      Oh yea of little faith!

      But recently a death occurred due to a “self driving” vehicle who’s controller mistook the side of a white truck, for the sun’s rays, or vice versa.

      You first, Alphonse!

      • Lorie Franceschi

        Yes and the side of the white truck had Budweiser written on it.

    • Inimical Jim

      You obviously haven’t seen Smokey and The Bandit. The contingency plan is trailing in a black Trans-Am.


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