One of the most anticipated uses of autonomous vehicle technology is for larger vehicles making long-haul drives, like trucks. Uber launched self-driving cars in Pittsburgh in September, and now are showing their self-driving truck. Otto, a San Francisco based startup that was acquired by Uber last year, outfitted the truck with their self driving software and hardware technology. The 18 wheeler started off in Fort Collins, Colorado and drove 120 miles to Colorado Springs to deliver 50,000 cans of Budweiser. Once on the highway, the human driver in the truck left the driver’s seat and spent the trip in a sleeping area.
The self driving technology is meant for highway use only; there are too many variables on the roads otherwise, like pedestrians, cars making strange maneuvers, or bikers. The technology can work on its own as long as it’s in a safe place. The truck only changes lanes when absolutely necessary. This allows those in the car to relax and play games or read a book while the truck is driving. Many are concerned that truck drivers are often overworked, which puts them, and others on the road, at risk. With this truck, the human driver can take over at the beginning and end of the trip when the truck isn’t on the highway and rest while the truck drives itself.
The Otto technology works on all automatic transmission trucks. Fitted with radars, cameras and laser sensors, the truck has ample information to keep track of its environment. Self-driving vehicles can improve fuel efficiency, reducing carbon emissions. The goal is to improve safety in auto accidents since many collisions are caused by human error. The company will continue developing the technology so that the trucks will be able to adapt to different conditions on the road, like construction areas and bad weather.
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