Sure, teacher and doctor are big jobs but few occupations are as important as the guy who brings you your beer. But sadly, the days of the beer truck delivery driver may be headed the way of the milkman. Anheuser-Busch announced today that for the first time ever, the brand used a self-driving vehicle to ship its suds between cities.
The automated semi-tractor, provided by Uber-owned self-driving truck company Otto, navigated much of a 120-mile journey in Colorado from Fort Collins to Pikes Peak by itself. When traveling along city streets, someone had to be behind the wheel, but while on the highways, the “driver” was able to hang out in the cab’s sleeper birth (as you can see in an Otto promotional video). So I guess truck drivers won’t become entirely obsolete, they’ll just be doing a lot less driving. They’ll be more like “truck watchers.” For its part, Anheuser-Busch said it’s not looking to ax its drivers, only make their job’s safer. The Bud brewer wanted to “see if [they] could help pioneer technology that will make the jobs of those shipping product easier and safer,” James Sembrot, senior director of logistics and safety for A-B, was quoted as saying.
The haul, which took place last week, consisted of 2,000 cases of Budweiser beer – and the two brands, Otto and Anheuser-Busch, say more test runs are planned for the coming months. “The initial appeal for us was to see how we could meet the needs of a company like Anheuser-Busch,” Otto co-founder Lior Ron told USA Today. “But now after this successful test, we're eager to see how it will handle other roads and other weather.”
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But though robots delivering beer obviously make the story more fun for Joe Sixpacks everywhere, Otto says the biggest news is that, thanks to approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation, the company was able to operate the truck without a safety driver behind the wheel at all times; other tests in other states have required such an additional precaution. Colorado’s DOT has a special RoadX mission to partner with companies like Otto and help advance self-driving technology. “We'd like to help get this tech deployed in the real world,” said Colorado DOT spokeswoman Amy Ford.
So next time you see a Budweiser truck flying down a Colorado highway without a driver, you’re not high, that truck is really driving itself. Well, you’re in Colorado, so you are also probably high, but you know what I mean.