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October 25, 2016 | World’s First Commercial Driverless Delivery: 45,000 Cans of Beer

Mike 'Mish' Shedlock

Mike Shedlock / Mish is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction.

Otto, a driverless technology company bought out by Uber, just completed its first driverless mission.

It was a beer run of 45,000 to 50,000 cans of Budweiser from an Anheuser-Busch facility in Loveland, Colorado to a destination in Colorado Springs, about 120 miles away.

bud-otto

A quick check of my calendar says this is still 2016, not 2045, not 2030, and not the twelfth of never.

A driver did take the truck from Loveland to a weigh station in Fort Collins but from that location Otto took over for 100 miles without driver intervention.

A human driver then completed the city delivery.

There are at least five news agencies commenting on this story. Some versions said 45,000 cans other 50,000 cans.

Reuters reported that Otto was paid the market rate of $470 for the job using one of its trucks outfitted with the new technology.

Budweiser ships 1.2 million truckloads of beer a year. Costs will drop.

The Verge reports Uber’s self-driving truck company just completed its first shipment: 50,000 cans of Budweiser.

“There were people in Colorado Springs this weekend drinking a Budweiser that was delivered by a self-driving truck,” James Sembrot, senior director of logistics strategy at Anheuser-Busch, told The Verge. “So that’s pretty cool.” (The cans even bore a message that read: “First delivery by self-driving truck.”)

Colorado transportation officials were briefed on the shipment and helped plan the route, said Otto co-founder Lior Ron. A Colorado state patrol vehicle followed the beer-laden truck from a distance to monitor the journey. The truck maintained an average speed of 55 mph throughout the trip. According to Ron, the state patrolman who followed the truck said it was “super nice” to see a truck stay safely in its lane for most of the trip.

Anheuser-Busch got in touch with Otto soon after the company launched in January. Otto started out with 40 employees, most of them from companies like Google, Apple, Tesla, and Cruise Automation, with the goal of turning commercial trucks into self-driving freight haulers. Ron, an Israeli-born engineer, was head of products for Google Maps for five years, while his partner Anthony Levandowski came from Google’s self-driving car team.

Then in August, Otto was acquired by ride-hailing giant Uber for a reported $680 million. The timing wasn’t coincidental: Uber was in the midst of preparing to launch its own high-stake self-driving experiment in Pittsburgh. As part of the deal, Levandowski took the helm of Uber’s self-driving team, while Ron would continue to run Otto with the goal of launching a self-driving “Uber Freight” service in the months to come.

Ron said that Otto’s mission is to make the trucking industry safer. “Ninety-four percent of fatalities are caused by human error,” he noted. Self-driving trucks could also lead to lower insurance premiums and higher fuel efficiency through the elimination of unnecessary acceleration.

UK Tests Self-Driving Vehicles

On October 11, The Verge reported Self-driving cars hit the road for first public test in the UK.

Self-driving cars — or more accurately self-driving pods — took to the road in a city outside of London Tuesday in what organizers are calling the first public test of driverless cars in the UK. To be sure, it was at extremely low speeds in a sparsely trafficked area, but was still celebrated as a milestone by Great Britain, which has lagged behind the US in testing self-driving cars.

The egg-shaped vehicle, with its purple trim, electric battery, and spinning LIDAR sensors, looked more like one of Google’s self-driving prototypes than any of the more traditional looking driverless cars that are currently being tested in the US.

It was the first of several tests planned for the UK in the coming months, since the government gave the green light to autonomous vehicles trials on public roads last year. The Meridian shuttle in the southern London borough of Greenwich has been testing its vehicles, which look like elongated golf carts, on private roads for over a year. Another project is run by Venturer and will be operating out of Bristol. A spokesperson for Oxbotica said their vehicle was the first to be tested in an “unsegregated public area.”

Much like the US government, the UK has said it wants to take a “light touch, non-regulatory approach” to trials of autonomous vehicles. The plan is to encourage companies to put more self-driving cars on the roads by 2020, with the goal of building an industry to serve a global market that’s worth £900 million ($1.1 trillion) by 2025.

For now, the goal of weird-looking, driverless pods like the Lutz Pathfinder Pod is to acclimate the public to the concept of self-driving vehicles, organizers say. “If people can see that these vehicles are capable of driving themselves they can gain trust in them,” Neil Fulton, a program director at the Transport Systems Catapult told Reuters.

But where it goes from there will be the true test. Organizers say they want 40 driverless pods operating in Milton Keynes by next year. Meanwhile, carmakers Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo are spearheading their own driverless car projects in the UK, as they seek to head off technology companies that are testing autonomous vehicles like Google and Uber.

Lutz Pod

uk-pod

The pod was tested in a high pedestrian area but only at 5 MPH. Some will laugh. But look at Otto, it went over 100 miles at highway speeds.

The UK’s goals are self-driving cars by 2020 and a $trillion industry by 2025. Both easily obtainable.

Uber’s Self-Driving Volvos Spotted in Pittsburgh

Finally, please consider Uber’s New Self-Driving Volvo SUVs Have Been spotted in Pittsburgh.

One of Uber’s self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs has been spotted out in the wild. A tipster in Pittsburgh sent us this image, as well as the video below, that confirms that Uber is in the process of testing out the newest member of its self-driving vehicle fleet. The Volvo was spotted on Morewood Street, in front of the Carnegie Mellon campus around 5PM on Monday, the tipster said.

As of last month, Uber said its self-driving Volvos were still under development, so this would mark one of the first times that the vehicle was spotted in public. It’s unclear whether they are being used to pick up and drop off passengers. We’ve reached out to Uber for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

Uber inked a deal with Volvo in August to purchase 100 cars by the end of the year, with the goal of outfitting them with the ride-hail company’s autonomous hardware. The cars are built on Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture, the same platform as its XC90, S90, and V90 cars.

Volvo has long been known for its fanatical focus on safety and it’s possible that Uber is hoping some of that will rub off on its autonomous vehicle project. That said, Volvo’s DriveMe technology, which will enter public trials next year in Sweden, the US, the UK, and China, won’t be used by Uber. Volvo is providing the vehicle infrastructure, but Uber is ultimately responsible for the functionality and safety of its autonomous driving technology.

Widespread Use of Self-Driving Truck Coming Right Up

My timeframe for widespread long-haul self-driving trucks by 2022-2024 now looks overly pessimistic.

Japan and Singapore will have self-driving cars on the road by 2020. Both will be commercial.

At some tipping point, possibly as soon as 2020 or 2021, millions of long-haul truck jobs will vanish. Competition ensures that outcome, as I have stated all along.

Technology will easily overcome any problems with snow or bad weather, and for a change, regulators are allowing things to happen without too much interference.

Related Articles

  1. September 20, 2016: DOT Embraces Self Driving Vehicles: “Rise of New Technology is Inevitable, Unknowns Today Become Knowns Tomorrow”
  2. August 24, 2016: New Lidar Chips for Self-Driving Vehicles are Smaller Than a Dime, Cost $10 to Manufacture
  3. August 18, 2016: Uber Offers Driverless Rides This Month! What About Snow, Rain, Pigeons, 80-Year-Olds on Roller Skates?
  4. August 17, 2016: Self-Driving Myths Die Hard; Fear of Change; What Does the Future Hold?
  5. August 16, 2016: Ford Targets 2021 for Mass-Market Self-Driving Car: 2021 a Near Certainty
  6. August 6, 2016: Singapore Unveils “Real” Self-Driving Taxis (No Steering Wheel, No Pedal) Dateline 2019
  7. July 26, 2016: What a City With Driverless Cars Will Look Like (In 10 Years or Less)
  8. May 12, 2016: “Nikola One” First-Ever 2000 horsepower (HP) Electric Class 8 Semi-Truck

Cautions

  • Don’t feed me nonsense about snow. Instead, check out link number 3 above.
  • Don’t count on cost as an inhibitor. Instead check out link number 2 above.
  • Don’t tell me regulators won’t allow this to happen. Instead check out link number 1 above.
  • Don’t tell me humans can drive better or safer in snow because the idea is ridiculous.
  • Above all, don’t tell me this will not happen for decades if ever, when it is happening in front of your eyes right now.

The deniers are looking sillier and sillier with their statements this will not happen. Millions of driving jobs will vanish by 2024 if not much sooner.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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October 25th, 2016

Posted In: Mish Talk

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