March 6 (UPI) — Uber has completing the testing phase of its self-driving freight trucks and will begin putting them to work in Arizona, the company announced Tuesday.
Uber has been testing the self-driving trucks with an operator at the wheel last year. Under the new pilot program, operators will continue to be in the cabin. The only major difference is that the trucks will be carrying freight in Arizona and transferring it to human truck drivers if it needs to cross state lines until the technology is approved in other states.
“The big step for us recently is that we can plan to haul goods in both directions, using Uber Freight to coordinate load pickups and dropoffs with local truckers,” said Alden Woodrow, the product lead for Uber’s self-driving trucks program, according to USA Today.
“We’ve been really hard at work the past several months improving the technology,” Woodrow added. “We’re building something that solves problems in the industry…and also makes truck drivers’ lives easier and better.”
Uber has made sure to make the case that its self-driving program will not have a negative impact on the number of jobs in the trucking industry.
“Keeping trucking local allows these drivers to make money while staying closer to home,” Woodrow said.
And in a video released Tuesday, Uber showcases a truck driver from Los Angeles who drops off a load in Topock, Ariz. that is picked up by a self-driving car. The Los Angeles truck driver is then able to “be home in time for dinner.”
But a report from Goldman Sachs Economics Research in May of last year found that self-driving vehicles will eventually eliminate about 300,000 driving jobs per year, with freight truck drivers seeing the biggest losses.