Can the Uber Otto self-driving truck be the mobility solution of the future?

Uber just bought Otto, a self-driving truck company, and one truck just covered 120 miles in USA to deliver 50,000 beer cans. Interested? Read on!

By: | Published: March 8, 2017 6:17 PM
The Otto self-driving truck has a set of Lidar sensors and cameras to understand the behaviour of traffic around it

Truck driving is a serious business! Not only it involves painstaking hours of being behind the wheel, it also entails its own set of dangers. Most of the accidents that happen are due to driver error and in the United States of America, over 4,000 deaths occour every year involving trucks. Otto, a self-driving truck company may soon change the viewpoint of autonomous driving for trucks. Recently bought over by Uber, the company just finished a delivery of 50,000 beer cans from the Budweiser factory in Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. But the 120-mile journey was completed by a completely autonomous truck that drove itself. The Otto truck is a conventional 18-wheeler which has a $30,000 retrofit and there was an Otto truck driver who drove the truck only till the interstate highway. Once on the highway, the driver engaged autonomous mode and the rest of the journey was spent sitting in the rear seat.

The Otto self-driving truck has a set of Lidar sensors and cameras to understand the behaviour of traffic around it. Without any incidents, the Otto truck arrived at its destination and was applauded for its achievement. So, what can the future of autonomous mobility hold for the average truck driver? First of all, this would add to the convenience of a driver as he does not have to spend arduous hours behind the wheel when, sometimes, he may be drowsy but has to complete a delivery schedule. In such a scenario, the driver is not only risking his own life but, others traveling around him. In addition to the safety, autonomous trucks will be beneficial as they are claimed to have better fuel efficiency over trucks driven by humans.

Video: Uber's Otto Self-Driving Truck: Everything You Need To Know (Video Courtesy: Tech IE)

However, Otto self-driving truck is not the only player in this segment. Established players like Volvo and Daimler are already developing trucks with similar technologies, testing of which is already underway. When such technologies will reach India, which also has its considerable amount of road accidents due to human error or fatigue, especially amongst truck drivers, it would prove to be a major contributor to the reduction in road accidents. While it may seem that autonomous solutions that is being tested for passenger vehicles can be 'bolted on' trucks or would be as simple, it is far more complicated. Autonomous trucks need a larger set of sensors, cameras and a number of other electronic equipments to understand the world around it.

Autonomous vehicles will not only reduce road fatalities, the hassle of driving on the road for the driver would swap with him or her spending more productive time. Although for a country like India, autonomous technology in vehicles will take its fair share of time before it is available to the masses or can be retrofitted into car, but once in play, this hardware would be safer and more cost-effective in the longer run.

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