Uber has been conducting delivery runs of self-driving trucks across Arizona since November, the first step in what could lead to a freight transportation revolution that could radically reshape the jobs of long-haul truckers.
After it tested the technology in 2017, Uber contracted with trucking companies to use its autonomous Volvo big trucks to take over loads as they traverse the state, Uber disclosed.
Under the company's current programme, a trucker meets the self-driving truck at the Arizona state border, which then hauls the load across the state before handing it off to a second conventional trucker for the short-haul trip. The autonomous trip is supervised by an Uber employee who rides in the driver's seat of the autonomous truck.
If the technology and regulations work out in favour of self-driving trucks, two scenarios could emerge -
in the first, self-driving trucks would be seen handling long-haul highway stretches with no one at the wheel as they meet up with conventional truckers, who then drive the deliveries into city centres.
The other possibility would see Uber sell its technology to trucking owner-operators, who then use it to sleep while the truck handles the bulk of long-distance driving.
Uber disclosed, it has two main transfer hubs in Sanders and Topock, but other than that, it is maintaining a discreet silence about the operation.
It has, for instance, not shared how many trucks are in use, how many miles they have driven, what they are shipping or how often drivers have to take over for the autonomous system. It has only said that the trucks have completed thousands of rides to date.
Uber's self-driving trucks made their first delivery in 2016, when one of its semis transported 2,000 cases of Budweiser from Fort Collins, Colorado to Colorado Springs.