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Uber begins self-driving truck deliveries with 50,000 cans of Budweiser

Bloomberg  /  October 25, 2016

A tractor trailer full of beer drove itself down Colorado's I-25 last week with nobody behind the wheel. Uber Technologies Inc. and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV teamed up on the delivery, which they said is the first time a self-driving truck had been used to make a commercial shipment.

With a police cruiser in tow, the 18-wheeler cruised more than 120 miles while a truck driver hung out back in the sleeper cab, the companies said. The delivery appears to be mostly a stunt—proof that Otto, the self-driving vehicle group that Uber acquired in July, could successfully put an autonomous truck into the wild.

"We wanted to show that the basic building blocks of the technology are here; we have the capability of doing that on a highway," said Lior Ron, the president and co-founder of Uber's Otto unit. "We are still in the development stages, iterating on the hardware and software."

AB InBev said it could save $50 million a year in the U.S. if the beverage giant could deploy autonomous trucks across its distribution network, even if drivers continued to ride along and supplement the technology. Those savings would come from reduced fuel costs and a more frequent delivery schedule.

Proving the viability of autonomous trucking has become more important amid mounting regulatory and public scrutiny. Surveys show most Americans aren't sold on the technology. The U.S. trucking industry is particularly sensitive to it. While fatalities in the industry far exceed those of other businesses and could therefore benefit from improved safety, it employed 1.5 million people in September, jobs that may be threatened by autonomous vehicles.

The death of a driver using Tesla Motors Inc.'s autopilot system in May has focused political attention on self-driving vehicles and hastened calls for regulations to keep pace with the technological advances. The U.S. Transportation Department released policy guidelines for autonomous driving, which acknowledged the technology's life-saving potential while warning of a world of "human guinea pigs."

Uber's Otto team worked with Colorado regulators to get permission for the delivery and to arrange for police supervision of the shipment, said Ron. Otto spent two weeks scoping out the driving route from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, carefully mapping the road to make sure the technology could handle it. The team wanted the trip to take place in the early morning when traffic would be relatively light and on a day when the weather was clear. Those conditions were met last Thursday, when the delivery took place.

Ron said Uber does not plan to build its own trucks and instead wants to partner with automakers, as it's doing with Volvo on self-driving cars. He said the company's discussions with truck manufacturers are in early phases.

The software still has a long way to go, too. The autonomous drive in Colorado was limited to the highway, meaning truck drivers shouldn't have to worry about finding a new profession anytime soon. "The focus has really been and will be for the future on the highway. Over 95 percent of the hours driven are on the highway," Ron said. "Even in the future as we start doing more, we still think a driver is needed in terms of supervising the vehicle."


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Self-Driving Beer Truck Makes 120-Mile Delivery—But There’s One Concern

Car & Driver  /  October 25, 2016

Fully loaded with a cargo of Budweiser beer, a self-driving truck delivered the first known commercial shipment of goods under autonomous operations last week. With software created by self-driving truck pioneer Otto, a tractor-trailer departed a weigh station along Interstate 25 in Fort Collins, Colorado, last week, and drove without incident in fully autonomous mode 120 miles south to Colorado Springs, reaching a maximum speed of 55 mph along the way. Otto and Anheuser-Busch announced the development this morning.

The truck completed the on-ramp-to-exit journey without human intervention. Otto executives and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials hailed the demonstration as a landmark step toward safer roads and a trucking industry that could be more nimble if drivers are able to rest while the truck drives for portions of the journey.

But there are questions about how the project was vetted. In a press release summarizing the venture, Otto says a professional truck driver was in the vehicle the entire route, monitoring the delivery from the sleeper berth—a location that would leave him or her unable to respond to any immediate problems that arose along the way.

For testing purposes, other states require a driver behind the wheel.

In California, for example, where more than a dozen automotive and technology companies have logged years of experience testing self-driving vehicles, a law requires that a human operator be present behind the wheel for testing on public roads.

Other states have similar laws that govern testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. But not Colorado.

We don’t really have regulations that have expressly enabled or prohibited a driverless vehicle,” says Shailen Bhatt, executive director of CDOT. “So it was sort of in this gray area. We’ll work on this going forward.”

Otto contacted Colorado officials about three months ago to gauge their interest in partnering on the project. Since the state had no established parameters for examining or vetting autonomous technology, Bhatt said, they worked with Otto to set up benchmarks and used state troopers to monitor the technology on previous treks between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.

“Over the last month, we’ve required hundreds of hours of testing, both with us and the state patrol in the vehicle, and said, ‘Prove to us that this technology works,’ ” he said. “Our state-patrol partners convinced us, through ride-alongs and data, that we can green-light this [????]. We had to be careful of the driver at the wheel not taking control. So we said the truck had to complete the full distance, and only then we said okay.”

Bhatt said the truck completed the route six to eight times with troopers watching and no interventions prior to the demonstration. “Once they accomplished that, it was obvious the technology could handle it,” he said.

By contrast, Uber, which purchased Otto for a reported $680 million earlier this year, requires human safety drivers behind the wheel of its autonomous vehicles that are currently picking up passengers as part of a pilot project in Pittsburgh. Google, which tests extensively in California as well as in Arizona, Texas, and Washington, also has human safety drivers behind the wheel for its more than 2.1 million miles of testing in autonomous mode, an average of about 25,000 miles per week.

Earlier this year, a Toyota executive said that millions of miles weren’t enough to measure the reliability of autonomous technology. He said, “We need trillion-mile reliability.”

On its website, Otto reports it has accumulated “hundreds of thousands” of miles of testing. A spokesperson did not return a request for specific information on the number of miles of autonomous testing it had conducted.

CDOT workers ensured the road striping along I-25 was adequate during the testing. A convoy of state troopers and support vehicles escorted the vehicle down the interstate when the official driverless journey took place last week. That convoy included a state trooper who drove about a minute ahead of the vehicle, a trooper 10 seconds ahead of the vehicle and a lead car immediately in front of the truck, according to Bhatt. Another state trooper trailed the truck, along with two more vehicles with technicians and engineers aboard. Bhatt observed the testing from one of the trailing cars.

“You know, it’s incredibly boring and incredibly terrifying at the same time, to watch a driverless car carry a load of freight—and potentially your career—at a pretty sedate speed down the road,” Bhatt said.

He said that testing on public roads is necessary to ensure the safety of the technology before it’s deployed for widespread use. “This technology has been tested on tracks and roadways,” Bhatt said. “So this, at some point, had to happen. To the extent we can deploy this technology, it will help save lives and reduce congestion. So to me, that is the whole purpose.”

For whatever short-term concerns about the rigor of safety benchmarks for testing this fledgling technology, there’s potential for massive, long-term safety benefits. In 2015, there were 4067 fatalities on U.S. roads in crashes involving large trucks, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s an increase of 4.1 percent from the previous year, and it comes amid a series of high-profile crashes involving tired truck drivers.

Overall, 94 percent of all traffic crashes are attributable to human error or human behavior, according to NHTSA. Eliminating those errors, for Anheuser-Busch and Otto, is one of the biggest benefits of this self-driving technology.

“By embracing this technology, both organizations are actively contributing to the creation of a safer and more efficient transportation network,” said Otto co-founder Lior Ron. “We are excited to have reached this milestone together, and look forward to further rolling out our technology on the nation’s highways.” [Translation: We’re looking forward to huge profits]

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Otto's Beer Delivery Hailed as First Shipment by Self-Driving Truck

Transport Topics  /  October 25, 2016

Otto announced Oct. 25 that one of its heavy-duty, self-driving trucks completed a 120-mile delivery for Anheuser-Busch InBev the week of Oct 17 in what it called the world’s first shipment by a self-driving truck.

Otto is a subsidiary of Uber Technologies Inc.

The Class 8 tractor and its trailer, loaded with 51,744 cans of beer, traveled on Interstate 25 from Fort Collins through downtown Denver, to Colorado Springs, Otto said.

“We wanted to show that the basic building blocks of the technology are here; we have the capability of doing that on a highway,” Lior Ron, the president and co-founder of Uber's Otto unit, told Bloomberg News. “We are still in the development stages, iterating on the hardware and software.”

AB InBev said it could save $50 million a year in the U.S. if the beverage giant could deploy autonomous trucks across its distribution network, even if drivers continued to ride along and supplement the technology. Those savings would come from reduced fuel costs and a more frequent delivery schedule.

The Volvo Class 8 truck was guided by cameras, radar, and lidar sensors mounted on the vehicle to ‘see’ the road. Otto’s system controlled the acceleration, braking, and steering of the truck to carry the beer exit-to-exit without any human intervention.

A professional driver was monitoring the trip while sitting in the sleeper portion of the cab, the company said.

“With an Otto-equipped vehicle, truck drivers will have the opportunity to rest during long stretches of highway while the truck continues to drive and make money for them. ... Our partnership with Anheuser-Busch is just beginning, and our companies are excited to transform commercial transportation together,” Otto wrote on its blog.

Anheuser-Busch ranks No. 88 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.

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Otto the autonomous truck hauls its first live load

Fleet Owner  /  October 25, 2016

Autonomous vehicle development firm Otto and beer maker Anheuser-Busch recently completed what they claim is the world's first commercial shipment via self-driving truck: transporting a full-loaded trailer of Budweiser beer more than 120 miles along Colorado highway I-25 from Fort Collins through Denver to Colorado Springs.

Otto Co-Founder Lior Ron noted that a human truck driver remained aboard the vehicle for the entire route, monitoring the delivery from the sleeper berth as the truck completed the 120-mile route, exit-to-exit, entirely on its own without any driver intervention.

"The incredible success of this pilot shipment is an example of what is possible when you deploy self-driving technology. It also showcases the importance of collaboration with forward-looking states like Colorado and companies like Anheuser-Busch," Ron said in a statement.

"By embracing this technology, both organizations are actively contributing to the creation of a safer and more efficient transportation network," he added.

The load originated at Anheuser-Busch's facility in Loveland, Colorado and departed for its journey from the Fort Collins, Colorado weigh station.

Otto’s Ron reiterated that the “vision” for self-driving technology is to help transform the trucking industry by:

He also noted that one “major opportunity” presented by its self-driving technology is that truck 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, the company stressed in its release, as its 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," noted Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shailen Bhatt in a statement. "Colorado will continue to focus on working with Otto and others on how to safely deploy this technology on our roads."

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Ksb, my wife asks me" Did you hear about the self driving beer truck?" Obviously referring to my interest in trucks and beer!😁 The implications of this technology are many and varied! First thing thing I thought of was the last time I ran I 25 in a Rocky  Mountain blizzard! Of course Otto (Uber) Carefully selected a sunny clear day to spotlight this "breakthrough" The commercial interests who promote this endeavor,(everyone but the driver) are careful to use buzzwords "won't affect income, safety,answer to the driver shortage" etc.😁 The last time I pulled one of my many loads of beer out of AB(Inbev) Their blue collar workforce was 100 percent union ,also neat clean and helpful! Wouldn't you love to be a "fly on the wall" at their local union hall when this technology was announced! I have many questions? Is the truck the "attendants" (the fellow cowering in the sleeper) co driver? Or vice versa? I noted the attendant couldn't ever reach the wheel in the event of the inevitable malfunction! Plus they are promoting this technology as an opportunity(one of corporate America's favorite buzzwords) for the driver to rest! I'd bet the biggest steak in Florida( sorry vegans) The unwritten, unspoken,intent of this endeavor is to fully eliminate the human component altogether! After all approximately one third of trucking company costs is driver wages! Keep us posted,gonna be interesting! Also saw in the news Joe Arapia is under indictment (are the local building  contractors protesting his "open air" incarceration concept)  Which could be built with a minimal level of carpentry skills (Perhaps incorporating an inmate training program!) Or are the local commercial food venders protesting his high carb/ protein, 4 star bologna /cheese weight loss program!lol A few years ago he claimed to have lost 20lbs by consuming the same " cuisine?" as his inmates lol 

If the driver is taking the opportunity to sleep or rest how could this possibly  be added to his on duty hrs? The point becomes moot as the goal is to remove the driver from the equation altogether! You don't pay wages to a truck! I'm sure there are engineers with multiple degrees who buy into the corporate claims that this program they are perfecting is mostly for safety reasons. There is no question that a properly  engineered self driving truck will get better fuel economy,less tire and powertrain wear etc. Playing devil's advocate let us say that the self driving trucks"only" malfunction  once per year per truck and only kill, maim, cripple one family per event,at some point as the as more trucks are added to the fleet and become more trouble free per truck the highways may become safer and there will be fewer drivers to pay (a major unspoken goal) It will be years before self driving equipment will be adapted to construction,dump,towing, door to door delivery and mountain and inclement weather use.Imagine an automated truck negotiating Donner pass when the chain law is in effect! 


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What Uber needs more than driverless beer trucks

Timothy E. Carone, CNN  /  October 26, 2016

One problem with technology is that sometimes what appears to be a great solution fails to live up to the hype. Take the buzz around "driverless" cars and aircraft, for instance.

For years, driverless cars were in the research and development areas of companies like Google and Tesla. They are just now transitioning out of R&D and into operational or engineering developments.

There are still significant limitations with broad deployment of self-driving cars -- Uber's new "driverless" cars in Pittsburgh have humans behind the wheel -- but they are approaching a level of operational maturity that enables them to address a huge problem: the 100 fatalities and 10,000 injuries a day caused by car accidents in the U.S.

The problem is that while there is a good case for driverless cars and planes, it is harder to justify a need for driverless trucks, especially in urban environments, where their operations are impaired by complex traffic patterns, single-lane streets with many obstacles on either side and pedestrians who are unpredictable.

And nowhere is this mismatch between the technology "solution" and the "problem" at hand more obvious than with the recent announcement by Uber of driverless beer trucks.

To be sure, automated beer delivery makes for a catchy headline, but safety demands that we take a closer look. Unlike cars, driverless trucks have undergone only limited testing -- under ideal conditions, and for relatively few miles. This is important, because the artificial intelligence behind driverless trucks is proving more difficult to develop than similar software for driverless cars.

Uber's beer truck may be a good start, but no company should expect that much of their long-haul trucking fleet will be driverless in 5-10 years. Truck aerodynamics are more complex than cars because of their size and the variety of loads they can carry. Cars carry humans and a few small items. Trucks carry everything from a load of beer to a load of live cattle.

In short, the work to develop driverless trucks that can be reliably used by companies is far less along than driverless cars. There is no guarantee that the outcome of this development work, and its costs, will lead to commercially useful trucks that are deployed in large numbers.

But there's a superior alternative to driverless trucks. The research has been done, and the operations are already mature.

Instead of trucks, Uber and Anheuser-Busch InBev should be investing for the future in aerial drones.

These drones can fly industrial loads from a terminus to a delivery location in a path that is more direct than existing highways. Though examples of this utility for drones are still few and far between, they do exist across the globe.

Small drones in Australia and Rwanda are carrying loads of several hundred kilograms. Amazon has announced it will test drone deliveries in partnership with the UK government. And an Israeli company has a drone prototype that can carry 1,100 pounds for 31 miles.

Companies looking to use industrial drones can learn from military and intelligence organizations, which have conducted mature operations for large drones that maneuver in adverse situations. Industrial drones can reuse much of the software and operational best practices these organizations have developed over the past two decades.

Scaling up to widely used industrial drones means companies could start replacing trucks on the roads within five years, with enormous benefits to profits, workers and consumers alike.

In addition to being at a more advanced and practical stage of development, industrial drones have key advantages over driverless trucks. First, they do not have to be pilotless. This simplifies their operations because a ready-made population of those pilots already exists: The skill required to fly an industrial drone would be similar to drones already in use by the military and intelligence communities.

Industrial drones can carry loads along a more direct route, as their mission is simply to move a load from point A to point B. An industrial drone can pick up a load at a terminus and deliver it to its location in a straight line instead of following the U.S highway and interstate systems. Even better, an industrial drone is not subject to the limitations that many trucks have today on length, width, height and weight.

Best of all, the operational maturity of an industrial drone brings existing truck drivers into the pool of potential pilots as well. Instead of having their jobs eliminated, truck drivers could be trained to sit in a remote location and operate industrial drones in any part of the country. Unlike driverless trucks, industrial drones could offer jobs to Teamsters in a fourth industrial revolution.

Since these pilots should be able to handle more than one drone at a time, industrial drones would provide efficiencies to customers, improving consumer experience.

We need to reprioritize our investments to improve the trucking industry. Most of these funds should be repurposed to embrace the future with industrial drones while continuing with driverless truck development at a lower priority. Right now, about 10 million trucks are on the road at any given time in the U.S., posing both safety risks and huge costs. The most-used freight corridors, consisting of 26,000 miles of highways, account for over 95% of that total. The infrastructure associated with these freight corridors require billions of dollars annually to fix and maintain.

Replacing these with driverless trucks does not address this situation in a positive way. Removing trucks from the road and replacing them with industrial drones will lead us into the future with a better safety record and less stress on our infrastructure.

Timothy Carone is an associate teaching professor in the Department of IT, Analytics, and Operations at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. A former astrophysicist, Carone is the author of "Future Automation: Changes to Lives and to Businesses." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

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Trucking industry wants seat at self-driving table

The Detroit News  /  October 27, 2016

The trucking industry is pushing for a seat at the table as new rules to allow self-driving cars to operate on U.S. roads are being developed.

American Trucking Association (ATA) President Chris Spear said during an event at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday that “the lion’s share” of self-driving guidance recently released by the U.S. Department of Transportation focused on automakers.

“Our industry was not included in that process, despite what was said. We were never at the table, we never had any input,” Spear said during a panel discussion on self-driving organized by the Securing America’s Future Energy group, also known as SAFE.

“This is really being developed by one mode, not multiple modes,” Spear continued. “You’ve got to have all modes developing this. We all share the road.”

Just this week, Anheuser-Busch announced that it had completed the world’s first commercial shipment by self-driving truck, sending a beer-filled tractor-trailer on a journey of more than 120 miles through Colorado.

The Transportation Department’s proposed self-driving rules focus on a set of 15 guidelines that call for automakers and technology companies to voluntary report on their testing and safety of autonomous cars to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before the cars are used by the public.

Before self-driving cars are allowed to roll on U.S. roads, automakers would be required to report how they were tested, how the systems work and what happens if those systems fail.

Spear said Wednesday that regulators should also be thinking about the benefits of self-driving trucks. He cited a fatal crash between a Tesla vehicle that was being operated in “Autopilot” mode that collided with a semi-trailer that turned left in front of the car, saying the accident could have avoided if both vehicles were autonomous.

“The accident we saw involving a Tesla vehicle hitting a trailor, it was one way obviously,” Spear said. “The Tesla had capability and the trailor did not. If the two had been communicating, maybe that driver wouldn’t have lost his life.”

Spear said he doesn’t foresee trucks being operated completely autonomously any time in the near future, despite the potential safety benefits he touted Wednesday.

“I don’t see drivers coming out of the cab for a very long time,” he said. “What we really are talking about here is hitting an autopilot button. Entrance to exit on the long haul, it would really be no different than an airplane pilot. You need a pilot to taxi and take off as well as land the plane, but when you reach a cruising altitude, the pilot hits autopilot.”

Spear added: “I think you’re going to still need the driver to navigate the cityscapes, to do the pickups and the deliveries.”

DOT officials have said they “consulted with industry leaders, experts in the field, state governments, the traveling public and safety advocates, among others” as they crafted the proposed self-driving guidance that Spear says ignores trucking. The agency’s statements since the framework was released have largely focused on the fact that self-driving cars could save lives on U.S. roads, however.

“In 2015, 35,092 people died in traffic crashes; 2.4 million people were injured. Ninety-four percent of crashes are caused in some way by human choice or error,” DOT said in a Sept. 20 blog post. “Ultimately, automation features in vehicles could prevent many of the crashes that are caused by unsafe driving, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives each year.”

Mitch Bainwol, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said regulators should continue to focus on the potential safety benefits of self-driving autos.

“When you look at deaths on the road in the U.S., it’s 3,000 people a month,” he said. “If you look at what happens, less than 1 percent relates to the vehicle itself and 99 percent relates to either behavior. All of those factors, the 99 percent that do not relate to the function of the car itself, can be addressed by this technology.”

Bainwol added: “I think there’s an urgency that we should attach to this for the mortality reason alone. This is a massive problem in society. We have before us an opportunity to make a dramatic improvement in safety outcomes.”

Bainwol’s group represents Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., BMW Group, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo Car USA in Washington.

Henry Claypool, policy director of the University of California-San Francisco’s Community Living Policy Center and an adviser to SAFE’s autonomous vehicle task force, said regulators face a tough job balancing the needs of multiple industries that are jockeying for position in the self-driving arena.

“It’s an unenviable position to be in to be a regulator these days, dealing with a technology that’s moving so quickly,” Claypool said.

Spear said Wednesday that NHTSA isn’t equipped to consider the possibilities of self-driving trucks because the trucking industry is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. He added that Congress might have to step in to ensure a place for autonomous trucks.

“These are all policy questions that need to get answered,” Spear said. “I see no better place to have that dialogue than here on the Hill. This is a role I think the Hill is best positioned to do, to be transparent, to be inclusive not just of all the modes, but all the agencies. Corral that, cultivate that kind of consensus, because we’re all going to have to plug into this at some point.”

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I was listening to the tail end of a pbs program on unemployed men,and one of the "experts" commented that trucking might not  be a good career choice owing to the spectre of "self driving trucks" proving that his field of expertise had little to do with the trucking industry! In my opinion the negative aspects of a trucking "career" have more to do with the almost universal level of workforce exploitation by the major carriers! The mostly young trucking aspirants and their wives only see the "potential earnings" and refuse to accept the fact that the pay is by mileage not hourly,and often "book miles" not actual miles.The pay,which is often less than promised doesn't look so good when mom is raising the kids alone and the toilet overflows and a ten minute repair by dad becomes a 150$ repair bill by a plumber😁  On a more pleasant note the inspiring story about the  young deaf mechanic reminded me that there is an almost universal need globally for skilled tradesman in all fields,including plumbers lol  but high schoolers are pushed into college even when they have no interest or aptitude for academics! There appears to be a stigma involved in "working with your hands" or is it just working period? Several people called into that radio show with proven work experience who said they weren't considered for jobs (or promotions) without a degree! I'm 110 percent in favor of formal education and know several skilled tradesman whose jobs were eliminated or outsourced that worked for and earned degrees! A good friend of mine,a welder became a degreed ER nurse.

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10 hours ago, MHfred said:

Like most of you, I think self driving stuff is a bunch of crap. If Otto had crashed, nothing would have been lost.

And you'll note that it's NOT the people of the world pushing for this. Rather, it's the governments of the world, including the U.S. and European Union, who are backing this whole absurd rush to autonomous vehicles. No consumer ever said, "Boy, I wish that I could buy a self-driving car". Thus the question is............why? Is this another idea hatched by the Bilderberg Group to enhance big business profitability?

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  • 5 weeks later...

Associated Press  /  November 26, 2016

A self-driving truck will begin traveling on two Ohio roads next week after state officials announce details of new investments to support innovative transportation technology.

A vehicle from self-driving truck maker Otto will travel a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Route 33 on Monday in central Ohio between Dublin and East Liberty, home to the Transportation Research Center, an independent testing facility. It will travel in regular traffic, and a driver in the truck will be positioned to intervene should anything go awry, Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Bruning said Friday, adding that “safety is obviously No. 1.”

Officials say that section of Route 33 — a four-lane, divided road — is an important piece of autonomous vehicle research in the state and will become a corridor where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic, aided by a fiber-optic cable network and sensor systems slated for installation next year. Gov. John Kasich is scheduled to discuss details of that investment and other efforts to support autonomous vehicle research on Monday before the truck hits the road.

“Certainly we think it’s going to be one of the foremost automotive research corridors in the world,” Bruning said.

The self-driving truck is also expected to travel next week on part of the Ohio Turnpike, though Bruning said he couldn’t yet detail when or where.

The turnpike’s executive director said in August that officials were moving toward allowing testing of self-driving vehicles on the 241-mile toll road, a heavily traveled connector between the East Coast and Chicago.

Tests of self-driving vehicles have been made in other areas. Anheuser-Busch said last month that it had completed the world’s first commercial shipment by self-driving truck, sending a beer-filled tractor-trailer on a trip of more than 120 miles through Colorado. The company said a professional truck driver was on board for the entire route. Several automobile companies have tested self-driving vehicles on public roads in California and Nevada, and Uber is testing driverless cars in Pittsburgh.

Kasich has pushed for Ohio to be a leader in the fast-advancing testing and research of autonomous vehicles. State officials say Ohio is well-positioned for such a role for many reasons, including a significant presence from the automotive industry in the state, partnerships with university researchers, and the seasonal weather changes that enable testing a variety of driving conditions in one place.

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  • 1 year later...

Uber to stop developing self-driving trucks

Reuters  /  July 30. 2018

Uber will stop developing self-driving trucks that have been hauling cargo on U.S. highways, the ride-hailing company said on Monday, seeking to focus its autonomous-vehicle technology solely on cars.

Through its acquisition of Otto in 2016, Uber had sought to disrupt freight hauling with self-driving trucks and Uber Freight, its smartphone app that connects truck drivers and shippers.

Uber Freight, which has seen "rapid" growth, is unaffected by the decision, the company said.

Trucking has been viewed by transportation experts as a natural application for self-driving technology because of the relative predictability of highways compared with busy city streets.

Uber had unveiled plans earlier this year to integrate manual trucking with self-driving trucks by deploying the former for short hauls and the latter for longer distances.

"We believe having our entire team's energy and expertise focused on (self-driving cars) is the best path forward," Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said in an emailed statement.

San Francisco-based Uber faces competition from Silicon Valley companies including Tesla Inc and Alphabet Inc's Waymo as well as traditional automakers such as Ford and General Motors in the race to bring self-driving cars to the market.

Uber said it will move employees working on self-driving trucks to other internal roles within autonomous vehicle development.


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My guess is that a group of truckmakers in the US market paid Uber an amount to walk away from autonomous truck development (for a certain number of years). Happens behind closed doors all the time. Remember, Volvo and Daimler have already spent serious money developing their own autonomous truck technology, and they're not about to have its future in North America derailed by Uber.

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Maybe Uber figured out there were too many competitors in the space and decided to get out. Self driving technology will be pretty much truck platform neutral, which means one company's system could dominate the market and force out competitors. And there are plenty of competitors, what with several auto makers as well as software providers in the space. For example, a couple days ago I saw a Ford Transit Connect van lettered for "Apple maps" in a remote rural area. But it had much more data capture equipment than required for simple map making and the remote location would not be a high priority for scanning to acquire data for maps... So I suspect Apple was really testing self driving technology, as has been rumored.

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Uber Shutters Autonomous Truck Business Division

Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)  /  July 31, 2018

Uber is shuttering its autonomous truck research division.

At least for now.

That’s the word that came late on July 30 about the San Francisco-based tech company, which is ending research on autonomous trucks in order to focus on self-driving cars.

Uber acquired its autonomous truck business from startup Otto almost two years ago in a move that was widely considered controversial and, at times, proved to be contentious.

The story broke when online technology journal TechCrunch reported on an email from Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies group, which stated that, “We recently took the important step of returning to public roads in Pittsburgh, and as we look to continue that momentum, we believe having our entire team’s energy and expertise focused on this effort is the best path forward.

“Rather than having two groups working side by side, focused on different vehicle platforms, I want us instead collaborating as one team,” Meyhofer said in an email to employees reviewed by TechCrunch editors. “I know we’re all super proud of what the Trucks team has accomplished, and we continue to see the incredible promise of self-driving technology applied to moving freight across the country. But we believe delivering on self-driving for passenger applications first, and then bringing it to freight applications down the line, is the best path forward. For now, we need the focus of one team, with one clear objective.”

The move will not affect the Uber Freight business unit, which uses the company’s location-based, ride-location app technology to connect truckers with available freight.

According to TechCrunch, Uber will shut down its San Francisco operations and move employees to Pittsburgh, where its autonomous car research is located. The company said in a statement that it intends to continue to explore autonomous vehicle technology using passenger cars as foundational research units, but will maintain relationships with trucking OEMs as this technology matures.

Uber’s autonomous truck efforts have been hampered by controversy and legal battles since the company acquired the business unit from Otto in 2016. The acquisition later became the subject of an intellectual property lawsuit by Google, citing the role of Anthony Levandowski, the co-founder of Otto, who was a head engineer at Waymo, Google’s self-driving car spinoff, before leaving to concentrate on the new company. Waymo accused Levandowski of taking trade secrets, in the form of photos, schematics, and emails, with him and providing them to Uber. The lawsuit eventually contributed to  the resignation of Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber, as CEO in 2017.

Uber denies that it ever possessed any of the intellectual property, however, it agreed to settle the suit in February by paying Waymo approximately $245 million, and by promising to never use any of Waymo’s confidential information in any of its products.

Lawsuits weren’t the only forces working against Uber’s autonomous truck research. In March, an Uber autonomous research vehicle was involved in a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona., resulting in negative press coverage of autonomous vehicle research and a temporary suspension of tests on public roads pending a review of safety procedures.

The company’s decision to suspend research into autonomous vehicles comes a week after the company restarted testing its passenger cars on public roads in Pittsburgh. Currently, the company is running and evaluating self-driving Volvo XC90 vehicles. According to Uber, the vehicles are only being driven manually by humans and under a new set of safety standards that include real-time monitoring of its test drivers and efforts to beef up simulation.

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