Only in America would a technological breakthrough like self-driving freight trucks be used to deliver 2,000 cases of beer.
So raise a frosty glass: on Tuesday morning, the ride-share company announced that a self-driving truck, designed and built by Uber-owned Otto, completed a 120-mile trip between Fort Collins, Colorado and Colorado Springs, Colorado to deliver 2,000 cases of Budweiser.
Uber acquired Otto, a San Francisco-based company founded by former Google, Apple, and Cruise employees, earlier in 2016. (According to the New York Times, there’s no word on a partnership between Otto and Amheuser-Busch InBev for using the trucks to deliver Budweiser brand beers.)
What’s perhaps most remarkable about all of this is that Otto was founded only earlier in 2016 and in less than a year has gone from creation to purchase (by Uber for around $700 million) to successful beer delivery.
The 40-employee, self-funded startup began by operating three retrofitted Volvo VLN 780 semis in California. In May, Otto estimated that the price of its autonomous drive system would be a “small fraction” of the $100,000 to $200,000 price tag of a brand-new semi truck.
In a blog post to announce the sale in August, Otto co-founder Lior Ron said, “By joining forces with Uber we can fast forward to the future. Together, Otto and Uber can build the backbone of the rapidly-approaching self-driving freight system.”
The truck, making the trip with the blessing of the state of Colorado, successfully maneuvered itself along a fairly straight-line route on Interstate 25, including driving through Denver.
A spokesperson for Otto told Mashable via email, “A professional truck driver was in the vehicle for the entire route, but was monitoring the delivery from the sleeper berth as the truck completed the route exit-to-exit entirely on its own without any driver intervention.”
In September, Uber also rolled out a pilot program allowing users to hail self-driven cars in Pittsburgh. Otto is also a part of this project, as co-founder Anthony Levandowski now also serves as VP of engineering at Uber.
When the pilot program rolled out, Levandowski underscored how important autonomous cars are to Uber’s future, saying, For me, this is personal because I think this is the most important thing that Uber is going to do in the next 10 years.