Otto, Sanfransisco based technology start up engaged in transportation and Budweiser, beer producer Anheuser-Busch have teamed up in the US to complete, what they say is, the world’s first shipment by a self-driving truck. The drive was as mundane as the beer in the trailer. At 12:30 am, after leaving the brewery in Fort Collins and merging onto Interstate 25, an Otto driver punched a switch labelled “engage,” and he moved out of his seat. He buckled the safety belt behind him, to keep the warning chime from driving him crazy as the truck trundled 200 Kms south to Colorado Springs.
Truck travelled from Fort Collins, Colorado – the home of Budweiser in the US – along the I-25 interstate highway through Denver to Colorado Springs, the truck covered around 200 Kms all without the truck driver in the driver’s seat.
Otto proudly says “this shipment is the next step towards our vision for a safe and productive future across our highways.” “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,” the company says.”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.”
Otto, which was started by engineers from Google, Apple, and Tesla in San Francisco, has been testing its autonomous trucking technology on current model trucks, looking to retrospectively equip vehicles with self-driving abilities. Its success caught the eye of Uber, which bought it in August 2016. Volvo has also signed a working partnership with the company.
Upon outfitting its technology on a Volvo truck, the technology company says it chose Budweiser for its on-highway milestone because “Its trucks are synonymous with American transportation, and its iconic brand has made a real impact in safe driving and reducing carbon emissions.” This milestone truck carried 50000 beer can was marked with a special beer label.
The truck used has extensive modifications that includes new age software and hardware and total modification is close to 18lks. And unlike Tesla’s Autopilot, Otto’s system offers true ‘Level 4’ autonomy. Once the rig hits the interstate, it is entirely capable of the job at hand, letting the human deal with paperwork, thumb her phone, or even catch a few Z’s.
“The technology is ready to start doing these commercial pilots,” says Otto co-founder Lior Ron. “Over the next couple of years, we’ll continue to develop the tech, so it’s actually ready to encounter every condition on the road.”
This particular truck is Volvo VNL Series but Otto’s hardware can work on any truck with an automatic transmission, and the retrofit doesn’t look like much complicated either. Three LIDAR laser detection units dot the cab and trailer, a radar bolts to the bumper, and a high-precision camera sits above the windshield.
Inside, the few hints of a human-free future include the two red, half dollar-sized buttons that shut off the autonomous system (one near the steering wheel, the other in the sleeper cab behind the seats) and the on/off switch, labelled “Engage.” A bank of computers turns all that data into driving directions, and an Uber engineer keeps tabs on it all.
With so much happening in world of trucks, if these could come to India if not in full version atleast as a kind of assisted driving will ensure thousands of lives are saved on road, as India rates the highest for accidents and death rates globally