The future is here and it involves a lot of Budweiser. Otto, Uber’s self-driving truck subsidiary, has completed its first big trip. On Tuesday, the company announced that an Otto-branded 18-wheeler had successfully made the world’s first autonomous truck delivery.
The journey was what would otherwise be a fairly standard delivery run for Anheuser-Busch, with a mission to move 2,000 cases of Budweiser. Of course, this particular trip had one big difference: no driver.
And what a delivery it was. Not only did the truck make the 120-mile journey through Colorado without a driver at the wheel, it did so without spilling a drop of the 50,000 beers it had in tow.
After departing Anheuser-Busch’s Loveland, Colo. facility, the truck drove through Denver — according to The New York Times, “alongside regular passenger car traffic” — before arriving in Colorado Springs on October 20. The journey was completed without incident, though a trained driver did remain in the cabin of the truck at all times.
As the Times notes, self-driving delivery trucks are a controversial, given the possibility that they could lead to the loss of jobs for truck-drivers. In an interview with the Times, Otto’s co-founder Lior Ron said the technology “is inching closer to commercial availability.”
But Otto claims its technology will still find a use for human drivers — though it seems like a pretty minor one. In an interview with Wired, Ron said he sees a future in which trucks will drive autonomously on the interstate, stop to pick up a human driver, and he or she will complete the journey into towns.
In other words, human drivers might only be necessary for a couple of miles of a cross-country drive — and, therefore, likely paid a lot less than they are currently.
As Otto driver Walter Martin notes in a video on Youtube, “The driver will still be involved with pickup and loading the freight, making sure it’s secure in the back of the vehicle. And then once you’re on the interstate — one switch, and it’s driving itself down the road.”
A note on the legality of self-driving vehicles: They are currently legal in the U.S. No state has outlawed them.
As vehicles evolve into self-driving supercomputers, the future looks pretty bright for the food industry, which is continually looking for innovative ways to deliver food and beverage. Chipotle and 7-Eleven are both testing drone delivery and Google hopes to deliver beer via drone by 2017.