Uber-owned driverless truck delivers 50,000 cans of beer

By Melanie Zanona – 10/25/16 02:07 PM EDT

A self-driving truck loaded with 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer has made its first delivery without a driver behind the wheel.

Uber teamed up with Anheuser-Busch InBev for the delivery, which the companies say is the first-ever commercial shipment made by a driverless truck, according to Bloomberg News.

The tractor-trailer drove 120 miles down a preprogrammed route on Colorado’s I-25 highway with a police vehicle traveling behind it. The truck’s human driver remained in the sleeper cab during the journey.

Uber acquired Otto, an autonomous trucking company, this summer as part of the ride-hailing firm’s aggressive push to expand its business.

Although self-driving trucking is still not ready for real-world use the demonstration was meant to show the technology’s potential for the industry.

“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, according to Bloomberg. “We are still in the development stages, iterating on the hardware and software.”

Anheuser-Busch estimates that autonomous trucks could save the company $50 million a year in the U.S., even if human drivers still supplement trucking operations, because the technology would enable a faster delivery schedule.

But the rise of self-driving vehicles has intensified concerns about whether the technology will eventually make drivers obsolete.

Autonomous technology that is available on the market today — like Tesla’s “Autopilot” feature — still requires a driver to be behind the wheel, but many companies are striving to build fully driverless vehicles.

“Even in the future as we start doing more, we still think a driver is needed in terms of supervising the vehicle,” Ron said.

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