The term “beer run” refers to the act of hurrying to a local liquor establishment, supermarket or convience store to replenish a supply of alcohol for a party. Now Otto, the Israeli-founded self-driving truck company recently acquired by Uber for $680 million, has taken the concept of a “beer run” to a whole new level.
Teaming up with American beer giant Anheuser-Busch, the two companies recently completed the world’s first-ever commercial shipment – 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer – by self-driving truck.
A tuckload of beer, no driver behind the wheel
With support from the state of Colorado, Otto’s self-driving truck hauled a fully loaded trailer of Budweiser beer more than 120 miles (193km) on I-25 from Fort Collins, Colorado through Denver, to Colorado Springs. A professional truck driver was in the vehicle for the entire route, monitoring the delivery from the sleeper berth as the truck completed the route – exit-to-exit – entirely on its own, without any intervention from the driver. The load originated at Anheuser-Busch’s facility in Loveland, Colorado and departed for its journey from the Fort Collins, Colorado weigh station. This milestone marks the first time in history that a self-driving vehicle has shipped commercial cargo, making it a landmark achievement for self-driving technology, the state of Colorado, and the transportation industry.
“The incredible success of this pilot shipment is an example of what is possible when you deploy self-driving technology. We are excited to have reached this milestone together, and look forward to further rolling out our technology on the nation’s highways,” Otto’s Israeli Co-Founder Lior Ron said in a statement.
Making America’s highways safer
Otto and Anheuser-Busch say they share a vision of enhancing the safety and efficiency of America’s highways. The partners embarked on this effort in response to the significant challenges facing the trucking industry. “We seek to reduce the number of fatalities on our roads. Nearly half of all US road fatalities happen on highways, and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 94% of road accidents are caused by human error. We also want to enable fuel-efficient driving by reducing emissions from freight trucks, which are currently responsible for 28% of all road vehicle CO2 emissions, according to the US Department of Transportation. Last, but certaninly not least, we seek to enhance truck utilization by providing a sustainable solution for the driver shortage which continues to put pressure on drivers to work long hours at the risk of safe driving.”
“We admire Otto’s vision that will shape the future of self-driving transportation. As we continue to partner with long-haul carriers to ship our beers, we hope to see this technology widely deployed across our highways to improve safety for all road users and work towards a low-emissions future,” James Sembrot, Sr. Director, Logistics Strategy at Anheuser-Busch, said in a statement.
A special beer can
To celebrate the occasion, Anheuser-Busch created a set of special cans commemorating the autonomous drive. A small Otto logo rests above text that states, “First Delivery by Self-Driving Truck.”
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No need to choose between safety and earnings
One major opportunity for Otto’s technology is that 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. To ensure the safety of all road users, these laws limit the number of hours truck drivers can work each day. Naturally, this also limits how much money drivers can make. Otto’s 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,” Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shailen Bhatt said in a statement. “Colorado will continue to focus on working with Otto and others on how to safely deploy this technology on our roads.”
Uber bought Otto to enter driverless truck market
Founded by former Google, Apple, and Tesla employees, including Israeli entrepreneur Lior Ron, Otto develops artificial intelligence, cameras, and sensors that are attached to a vehicle, giving a truck full driving capacity without the need for a driver. This summer Otto was acquired by ride-hailing giant Uber in a deal worth up to $680 million. The motivation behind the acquisition was Uber’s desire to accelerate the advancement of self-driving vehicles from cars to trucks, as Uber plans its entry into the long-haul trucking business.
Anheuser-Busch: A legendary American beermaker
For more than 160 years, Anheuser-Busch and its brewmasters have brewed some of America’s most-popular beers. Anheuser-Busch is the U.S. arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev and operates 20 local breweries, 20 distributorships and 23 agricultural and packaging facilities across the United States. The company is best known for its popular American-style lagers, Budweiser and Bud Light.
Photos & Video: Otto, Anheuser-Busch