Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group released a video showcasing how its Autonomous Truck technologies can be used to haul goods across the country.
The video features an Uber autonomous truck transferring freight with a traditional heavy-duty truck in Arizona. According to the video, the self-driving truck was bringing goods that originated in the Midwest to a point near Topock, Arizizona, near the California-Arizona border. The self-driving truck is met by the traditionally driven truck, which has brought its own load from Los Angeles.
The video was not just for show. Uber's autonomous truck actually hauled the trailer from Sanders, Arizona, to Topock – a route spanning the length of the state. Arizona has become a hotbed of autonomous truck development in the past year, due in part to its regulatory climate that places few restrictions on self-driven vehicle testing.
At the meeting point, the two trucks traded loads, with the regular truck taking the goods from the Midwest back toward Los Angeles and the self-driving truck taking its new load back to the East.
Apart from showing how Uber’s autonomous truck technology can already be used on long haul routes, the video is meant to showcase that, in either case, a truck driver is still needed to operate each vehicle. This supports Uber’s vision for the future of trucking, where mixed fleets of self-driving long-haul trucks and human-driven regional trucks work together in a transfer hub logistical model.
This could also accelerate the timeline for self-driving trucks being used in regular operations. Current autonomous trucks still require a driver to be behind the wheel at all times, and have a harder time navigating in urban environments. But by relegating them to open roads on long-haul routes, autonomous trucks could haul freight at all hours and potentially improve efficiency.
In a blog post earlier this year, Uber outlined how this model for trucking could also help alleviate the trucking industry shortage in qualified drivers and help make existing jobs more appealing to younger prospective drivers. As self-driving trucks take over long haul routes, truckers would be required to driver regional routes with regular schedules and shorter hours. Uber also stated that it believed this could shift the industry away from per-mile pay to an hourly model.