Uber Freight is finally launching its autonomous truck deliveries, with the first hauls driven in tandem with both human drivers and self-driving trucks being completed in Arizona.
According to TechCrunch, Uber loads the freight on a human-driven truck, which collects the load from the shipper and then does a short haul run to a transfer hub.
Once there, the load is transferred to a long-haul freight for autonomous transport. That self-driving truck takes on the highway driving portion of the trip before handing it off again to a human driver for the last leg, which is a short haul to the final destination.
Launched in 2017, Uber Freight was designed much like the company's ridesharing app, only this time it matched commercial shippers with truck drivers looking for jobs several weeks in advance or on the same day.
In August, the company announced it was expanding Uber Freight into new markets across the country, as well as introducing personalized load matching. In addition to Texas, its first launch market, Uber Freight moved its load matching service to major metros across California, Arizona, the Chicago-Midwest region, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Autonomous trucks were also a big part of Uber's plan, although the company had a difficult time getting them on the road, mainly due to a lawsuit over trade secrets related to its purchase of truck startup Otto in 2016.
As TechCrunch pointed out, this latest news is “a big step toward commercialization of Uber’s autonomous truck tech,” and puts it ahead of competitors who are also looking to launch autonomous trucks, such as Embark. For these deliveries, Uber Freight takes care of the load sourcing, while the company's Advanced Technology Group utilizes its self-driving trucks on the Uber Freight platform.