Otto? Friendly German bar keep? Burly coal miner in Ohio?
No, Otto is the first self driving commercial truck that just delivered its first load. What??
Yes, on October 18, 2016, Otto loaded beer in Fort Collins, Colorado and delivered to Colorado Springs, Colorado, a 120 mile trip. Well, Otto did have help. A commercial driver was along monitoring the drive. The driver takes over when the truck has to exit the freeway. I have driven through the Denver traffic and have to give props to the technology that can do that and not flip off the driver in the next lane.
Otto has been tested before on closed tracks as well as highways, this was the first time freight was carried in the truck.
Uber recently purchased Otto for $700 million so they are certainly ready for a return on their investment. The inventors of the system are all former Google people and worked on the self-driving car. They thought there was more of a market for freight to move about the country, and they are correct. We have been hearing of a driver shortage in the trucking industry since the 1980’s.
Currently there are 3.5 million truck drivers working in the United States and good part of them are nearing retirement age. This could be an answer to driver shortage. The automation drives the truck on the freeways and the driver takes over at the exit to drive local streets to either pick-up, deliver or fuel the truck. While on the freeway, the driver can nap or do whatever he/she needs to do, then take over at the exit.
A big question is how is FMCSA going to handle this. The regulations for logging time for commercial drivers is cut and dried. They do not do things quickly so I hope that the Department of Transportation is at least thinking about this issue.