In a promotional video published to YouTube on Tuesday, Uber showed how its self-driving trucks are already hauling freight in partnership with traditional trucks. This scene of harmony showed two truckers gainfully employed, one assisted by autonomous driving technology. But according to the head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), that may not be Uber’s ideal future.
The video, which is embedded below, shows two truckers who meet up at a point near Topock, Arizona. The self-driving truck, operated by Larry, originated in the Midwest. Larry is met by Mark, a trucker based out of Los Angeles. They meet near the California/Arizona border and swap trailers, then head back the way they came.
According to Uber, this isn’t just a possible future use of technology – it’s already happening. Currently, the self-driving truck still needs an operator like Larry at the wheel at all times, but Uber hopes that will change.
Uber ATG product lead Alden Woodrow confirmed that the company is “focused on a system to take the driver out of the vehicle” – at least for highway driving. Then the autonomous truck would pull into a facility where it could switch trailers with a traditional driver-operated truck to complete the trip.
It’s not the fully-autonomous goal that many tech companies are aiming for, but it’s far closer to the reality of where autonomous technology is today. And for Woodrow, who says highway driving is “likely to be our focus for a long time,” that’s good enough for now.