Uber self-driving trucks begin shipping freight across Arizona

Mar 8, 2018, 4:35 AM | Updated: 7:05 pm

PHOENIX – Self-driving trucks are popping up on one northern Arizona highway, as the state has become the hub for Uber Advanced Technology Groups’ newest invention to move freight across the state.

In conjunction with Uber Freight, an app that allows truck drivers to haul shipments at their convenience, drivers from the Midwest and southern California have began traveling to one of two hubs in Arizona to switch loads with self-driving trucks.

Uber ATG posted a video Wednesday showing what type of implications this technology can have on truck drivers. Mark, a truck driver from Los Angeles, Calif. with 24 years of experience departed for Arizona after picking up a load in the morning.

His trip led him to Topock, Ariz., a small town in western Arizona near Lake Havasu. There, he met with Larry, the operator of one of Uber ATG’s self-driving trucks.

The two swapped loads, sending the self-driving truck back east while Mark headed back home to California.

According to Alden Woodrow, the product lead for self-driving trucks at Uber ATG, instances such as this for Mark would allow truck drivers to avoid long hauls and ultimately, save lives.

“We are beginning to move real loads,” Woodrow said to KTAR News 92.3 FM‘s Ali Vetnar Wednesday.

“We think that’s a very valuable way to learn as much as we can about the industry and to achieve our goals of bringing self-driving technology to the industry and helping solve some of the big challenges we see around saving lives, increasing efficiency and improving driver livelihoods.”

The average age of truck drivers is 37 years old, with 55 percent of drivers spending more than 200 nights a year away from home.

With a growing need for drivers, Woodrow added that the introduction of self-driving trucks will keep up with demands.

The testing for the self-driving trucks will primarily take place along Interstate 40 in northern Arizona, with hubs located in Topock and Sanders, Ariz., near the border of New Mexico.

Uber ATG hopes to establish more hubs in other states across the country soon, with the eventual goal to remove operators from the cabs altogether when self-driving trucks officially launch in the near future.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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