So, the innovative thinkers of Silicon Valley have been known to pursue some eccentric projects but a new Uber test might not have been on anyone’s radar. That’s because, the Uber-owned self-driving vehicle operation, Otto, completed its first commercial delivery on Tuesday.
But it is not that this mission was successful that makes it so strange, it is the payload: This very first automated commercial delivery was a load of beer originating from Fort Collins, CO and delivered 120 miles away to Colorado Springs.
Now, if you have taken any interest in this field, then you probably already know that Uber has been hedging a few bets on self-driving taxi services. However, this robotic commercial trucking concept is quite new. Of course, it could also be an extremely controversial one, too, as it certainly implies that robots/drones could, in fact, replace human drivers at some point—and perhaps in the very near future, too.
“We think this technology is inching closer to commercial availability,” explains Otto co-founder Lior Ron.
In August, Uber acquired Otto, a San Francisco start-up run by a number of veterans of Google’s long-running autonomous vehicle research.
It is important to note, of course, that this trip was only 120 miles, which does make it more symbolic than practical. However, the Otto project began not even a year ago—with Uber’s acquisition of the San Francisco start-up run by veterans of Google’s extensive autonomous vehicle team—so this success could be more of a landmark on the way to something much bigger.
Mr. Ron goes on to say, “We’ve tested with trailers, of course, but there’s nothing like actually doing the real thing, end to end.”
The delivery was is, indeed, a more symbolic representation of Uber’s much larger ambitions to evolve into an entire transportation network. Basically, Uber would not have a problem being associated with the moving or transport of anything—human or otherwise.
Ron goes on to say, “The initial appeal for us was to see how we could meet the needs of a company like Anheuser-Busch. But now after this successful test, we’re eager to see how it will handle other roads and other weather.”
Anheuser-Busch Inbev is a massive global spirits conglomerate that is currently valued $213 billion. As such, Anheuser-Busch senior director of logistics and safety James Sembrot notes that the particular appeal of this partnership was to “see if we could help pioneer technology that will make the jobs of those shipping product easier and safer.”