Move Over Tesla, Otto Really Delivers
COLLINS, CO – Another industry first was achieved on Tuesday when a self-driving, commercial 18 wheeler loaded with 2,000 cases of beer made a successful 120 mile delivery from Ft. Collins, CO to Colorado Springs.
Otto, Uber’s Self-Driving Vehicle Division partnered with Anheuser-Busch to make the historic 120-mile commercial delivery without any issues, or a driver. The successful delivery marks what Uber and Anheuser-Busch believe is the future of commercial freight transportation.
Uber’s move to diversify into the $720 billion annual freight transportation industry with its driverless technology is extremely forward thinking and begins new discussions of how Otto could forever change the industry. Many will be appalled at the idea of losing American jobs in an industry that has fueled our country’s growth over the last half century. As much a part of the American culture as apple pie, truckers share a language, customs, and culture all their own.
Let’s not get the cart before the horse as this project is still in its research and development phase. The infrastructure to support logistics and long hauls, government regulation, production and refueling centers and the myriad of details to make Otto a reality are simply too far-reaching to have an impact in the next decade.
The concept does have a few major advantages. The Labor Department has labeled the occupation of truck driving to be the most hazardous occupation of any other. Many accidents are caused by weary or impatient truck drivers and the State and Federal Departments of Transportation alongside numerous industry groups like ATA (American Truckers Association) has implemented many driver regulations on consecutive hours driven and mandatory rest periods in efforts to increase overall road safety. Otto could essentially eliminate road fatalities and accidents caused by overworked, rest-deprived drivers.
Otto also has the potential to significantly reduce freight costs for shipped goods. Trucks could, theoretically, operate 24 hours a day, increasing efficiency and domestic profit margins rise. Lower prices for domestic goods could be a factor in competitive trade, creating more American jobs with higher rates and better benefits.
Otto’s maiden voyage with partner Anheuser-Busch is confirmation of the hopes of increased efficiency and margin growth. The behemoth beer manufacturer has seen steady declines for its products for decades and significantly over the past five years due to the craft beer explosion nationally. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau or “TTB,” which oversees governments brewery licensing, reports that they receive more than 4,000 new brewery applications annually across the United States. Craft Beer has taken a significant portion of market share and driven the cost of goods like hops and grains used to make beer sky high as supplies are limited, and demand is staggering. Anheuser-Busch had already taken viable steps to reducing freight costs when they converted 97 of their diesel trucks over to natural gas, and in Houston, they turned over their fleet to Ryder, who will lease the trucks AB and provide the maintenance.
More R&D is in the works for Otto to realize Uber’s mission of autonomous, self-driving transportation, but the successful delivery is a huge step in moving the concept forward.