Seeing Google’s self-driving cars every day in the Bay Area, and sometimes those of GM and other manufacturers, it’s still a rarity to encounter a vehicle from one of the at least three self-driving truck startups. Peloton, Ot.to and Vivify Trucks are the ones based in the Bay Area and finally today I encountered an autonomous Ot.to truck on Highway 101.
Self-driving trucks are expected to be the first real world use for autonomous vehicles. While there have been test programs for autonomous buses on multiple university campus and the use of 22 self-driving trucks at the Australian mining region Rio Tinto, there are multiple good reasons to start the broad deployment of self-driving trucks for transports on highways. First reason is that additional autonomous hard- and software doesn’t add that much to high-priced trucks. Second, this money spend is quickly gained through savings from the need for fewer truck drivers. Third, autonomous trucks don’t need mandatory breaks, they can just go on and on until they reach their destination. Fourth, development of the technology for drive on a highway is comparatively easy to driving in a city. The traffic goes just in one direction, no pedestrians are crossing the road or bicyclists blocking a lane, speed is normally constant, and not as many traffic signals and signs to focus on.
Once I noticed the truck with Otto spelled on the splash guards, I took a quick and shaky video, trying not to get myself killed fumbling around with my smartphone while passing by the truck. My apologies for the shakiness.