Uber’s self-driving trucks are hitting the highways but they are steering clear of city streets, leaving the in-town traffic for human drivers. Arizona highways are a testing ground for Uber’s autonomous technology and while regulations prevent the autonomous trucks from crossing state lines, self-driving big rigs are hauling loads across the state.
Self-Driving Trucks on Arizona Highways
Uber’s Advanced Technology Group (UberATG) and Uber Freight are testing autonomous trucks on Arizona highways. Uber has developed a system for shipping goods across the country that allows self-driving trucks to shorten hauling distances and keep long-haul truckers closer to home.
Uber Freight currently has two primary transfer hubs in Arizona, one in Sanders near the New Mexico border, and another in Topock near the California border. By using these transfer hubs in Arizona, truckers can connect with other truckers driving autonomous rigs and exchange cargo by picking up and dropping off trailers. Autonomous trucks would pick up trailers scheduled for long-haul destinations, while human drivers would pick up trailers scheduled for closer local destinations.
Uber plans to set up strategically placed transfer points that are close to major distribution centers in as many large cities as possible. This will limit the distance that truckers have to drive to pick up freight and cut down on driving hours to reduce fatigue. In today’s trucking industry, the average age for truckers is 55 and many truckers are well into their 60s. Aging truckers face declining health issues that are worsened by long hours on the road and extreme fatigue. According to Uber, autonomous trucks will benefit drivers because they can stay on the road longer and eliminate driver fatigue, a common cause of serious trucking accidents and injuries. Over time, Uber claims that autonomous technology will make self-driving trucks more affordable for the trucking industry.
Currently, Uber’s autonomous trucks are limited to Arizona highways and not allowed to cross state lines. The technology giant won’t disclose the number of trucks being tested or the number of miles being driven by self-driving trucks. Details on the inter-working of transfer hubs and human driver intervention are limited. While Uber’s autonomous trucks are not intended to replace human drivers, they may change the nature of trucking jobs in the future. Autonomous trucks will make long-haul trucking jobs similar to parcel delivery jobs, where truckers shuttle trailers between transfer hubs and local destinations.