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Uber’s self-driving truck plan relies heavily on humans

March 6, 2018

In a video released today, the ride-hailing giant laid out plans for how its self-driving trucks might fit into—and shake up—the trucking world.

Logistics, logistics, logistics: Uber’s idea is to coordinate exchanges between short-hauling, human-piloted trucks and long-haul self-driving vehicles at transfer stations around the US. Humans will handle the tighter roads close to cities and leave the interstates to AI-powered big rigs (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2017: Self-Driving Trucks”).

For example: Uber featured two (human) truck drivers in the video. Mark, on his way from Los Angeles in a typical 18-wheeler, meets up in Arizona with Larry, the pilot of a self-driving truck coming from the Midwest. They exchange their trailers, an action Uber says will “require the hands-on work only truckers can do” (a nod to concerns that self-driving trucks will eliminate jobs). Mark then heads back to California, and Larry heads east on a long haul.

Takin’ it to the streets: According to the New York Times, Uber’s self-driving trucks have already been hauling commercial cargo on highways in Arizona for the past few months, hinting that wider application of this plan might not be too far off.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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