Otto's Beer Delivery Hailed as First Shipment by Self-Driving Truck

Aether Films

Otto announced Oct. 25 that one of its heavy-duty, self-driving trucks completed a 120-mile delivery for Anheuser-Busch InBev the week of Oct 17 in what it called the world’s first shipment by a self-driving truck.

Otto is a subsidiary of Uber Technologies Inc.

The Class 8 tractor and its trailer, loaded with 51,744 cans of beer, traveled on Interstate 25 from Fort Collins through downtown Denver, to Colorado Springs, Otto said.

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“We wanted to show that the basic building blocks of the technology are here; we have the capability of doing that on a highway,” Lior Ron, the president and co-founder of Uber's Otto unit, told Bloomberg News. “We are still in the development stages, iterating on the hardware and software.”

AB InBev said it could save $50 million a year in the U.S. if the beverage giant could deploy autonomous trucks across its distribution network, even if drivers continued to ride along and supplement the technology, according to Bloomberg News. Those savings would come from reduced fuel costs and a more frequent delivery schedule.

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The Volvo Class 8 truck was guided by cameras, radar, and lidar sensors mounted on the vehicle to ‘see’ the road. Otto’s system controlled the acceleration, braking, and steering of the truck to carry the beer exit-to-exit without any human intervention.

A professional driver was monitoring the trip while sitting in the sleeper portion of the cab, the company said.

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“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. ... Our partnership with Anheuser-Busch is just beginning, and our companies are excited to transform commercial transportation together,” Otto wrote on its blog.

Anheuser-Busch ranks No. 88 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.