In 2016, Uber made its very first delivery with a self-driving truck. Today, less than two years after Uber’s self-driving trucks made their first delivery, Uber announced that their self-driving trucks have been successfully moving freight on a large scale.
Drivers have been present in the trucks, ready to take control in the event of an emergency, but Uber has been working to take them away. Uber has been lobbying for regulators to allow their trucks to operate without human supervision.
More importantly, Uber is limited to operating commercially in Arizona; but the company has its sights set on expanding to other states and is seeking for approval. Uber plans to expand its network of self-driving trucks to nearby states and eventually the entire continental United States. It won’t be long until you notice yourself passing one on the highway.
If you are interesting in how they work, we have you covered. A regular truck driven by a person picks up a load from a shipper and drops it off at a local transfer hub. (Think of transfer hubs as large parking lots for trucks.) A self-driving truck takes the load and hauls it to a different transfer hub closer to its destination. This is the longest part of the journey and can be safely done by a self-driving truck since it is almost entirely highway driving. The self-driving truck doesn’t have to do any complicated maneuvers and can drive predefined routes that it knows. Once at a transfer hub close to its destination, the load is picked up by a regular truck and delivered.
This system is great for truck drivers. Currently, OTR truck drivers have to stay away from home almost all the time. They often are on the road for weeks at a time. With Uber’s approach, drivers can haul freight locally during the day and return to their beds at night. This effectively turns trucking into a nine-to-five job.