Last month, Anheuser-Busch and Otto teamed up for a Budweiser beer run, but this delivery was anything but run-of-the-mill. Driving 120 miles from Fort Collins, through Colorado and ending in Colorado Springs, the two-hour trip marked the first time self-driving tractor-trailer was used for such a lengthy trip.
The trial run by Otto, a tech startup purchased by Uber this summer, is a potential glimpse into a world where vehicles could be piloted via technology. And though the driverless-vehicle revolution has been brewing for some time, there’s still no exact timetable on when such technology will be ready for its mass-market debut.
As a growing number of businesses test out autonomous vehicles, the main concern primarily voiced in the public arena is safety. Some authorities on the subject claim that the technology will actually improve safety, decreasing traffic deaths caused by human error. While others suggest that the unknowns will remain unknown for some time. A recent report from research firm RAND Corporation concluded that there wouldn’t be enough testing hours to accurately compare data. Teaching the technology how to make decisions in crisis situations is another concern. But there are other benefits projected for driverless vehicles, as well—greater fuel efficiency, decreased greenhouse gas emissions and more valuable time for commuters. It’s important to note that a driver was needed to maneuver Otto onto and off of the highway, and was ready to take control if necessary.
Technology has always worked to improve efficiencies and decrease operating costs for fleets. For example, vehicles equipped with a GPS tracking system such as WEX Telematics are able to reduce maintenance costs by about 10 percent. Finding the lowest price-per-gallon of gas anywhere in the country is as easy as downloading a mobile app. With so much data available, it’s never been easier for business owners to stay informed.
“As the industry becomes more tech-driven, we understand that new tools and technologies can be seen as a potential disruption, and the possibility of autonomous-vehicles makes for an uncertain future.” said Katherine Ferguson, VP of Marketing for North American Fleet at WEX Inc. “WEX is committed to improving technologies in smart, intuitive ways for our customers. Employee safety, vehicle maintenance, and productivity are as important to us as they are the businesses we serve.”