Autonomous vehicle development firm Otto and beer maker Anheuser-Busch recently completed what they claim is the world's first commercial shipment via self-driving truck: transporting a full-loaded trailer of Budweiser beer more than 120 miles along Colorado highway I-25 from Fort Collins through Denver to Colorado Springs.
Otto Co-Founder Lior Ron noted that a human truck driver remained aboard the vehicle for the entire route, monitoring the delivery from the sleeper berth as the truck completed the 120-mile route, exit-to-exit, entirely on its own without any driver intervention.
"The incredible success of this pilot shipment is an example of what is possible when you deploy self-driving technology. It also showcases the importance of collaboration with forward-looking states like Colorado and companies like Anheuser-Busch," Ron said in a statement.
"By embracing this technology, both organizations are actively contributing to the creation of a safer and more efficient transportation network," he added.
The load originated at Anheuser-Busch's facility in Loveland, Colorado and departed for its journey from the Fort Collins, Colorado weigh station.
Otto’s Ron reiterated that the “vision” for self-driving technology is to help transform the trucking industry by:
- Reducing the number of fatalities on U.S. roads. Nearly half of fatalities happen on highways and 94% of accidents are caused by human error.
- Enabling fuel-efficient driving and therefore reducing emissions from freight trucks, which are currently responsible for 28% of all road vehicle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
- Enhancing truck utilization and providing a sustainable solution for the driver shortage that continues to put pressure on drivers to work long hours at the risk of safe driving.
He also noted that one “major opportunity” presented by its self-driving technology is that truck drivers will be able to rest during long stretches of highway, and perhaps even catch up on sleep.
That begs the question of whether the driver is "on-duty" with respect to hours of service laws while they are resting, the company stressed in its release, as its self-driving technology "has the potential to extend productive hours without forcing drivers to choose between safety and earnings."
"Teaming with Otto to deploy self-driving technology on the roads of Colorado is a monumental step forward in advancing safety solutions that will help Colorado move towards zero deaths on our roads," noted Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shailen Bhatt in a statement. "Colorado will continue to focus on working with Otto and others on how to safely deploy this technology on our roads."