Walt Martin is kneeling, legs folded behind him, butt resting on his heels. “I’ve got to practice my yoga,” he says, clearly joking. Never mind that we’re in the cab of an 18-wheeler cruising through Colorado at 55 MPH and Martin was, until a moment ago, the guy at the wheel.
Maybe he was feeling cocky. After all, the truck, outfitted with $30,000 worth of hardware and software from San Francisco startup Otto, had just hours before made the world’s first autonomous truck delivery. You’d think so momentous an occasion would involve something more glamorous than 50,000 cans of Budweiser, but there it is.
The drive was as mundane as the beer in the trailer. At 12:30 a.m., after leaving the brewery in Fort Collins and merging onto Interstate 25, an Otto driver punched a switch labeled engage and, once sure autonomous mode had, in fact, engaged, climbed out of his seat. He buckled the safety belt behind him, to keep the warning chime from driving him crazy as the truck trundled 120 miles south to Colorado Springs.
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