Earlier this year, a startup called Otto founded by former employees of tech giants like Google, Tesla, and Apple announced that it's working on self-driving trucks. More specifically, the San Francisco-based company unveiled its proprietary technology designed to turn any truck into an autonomous vehicle. Naturally, such a solution involves a whole lot of sensors and connected software, but even Otto's rumored $30,000 starting kit is cheaper than developing a self-driving truck from the ground up.
In any case, since Otto first went public with its technology in mid-2016, the company has been acquired by Uber for a reported fee of $680 million. Regardless of that, the firm continued to operate as an autonomous entity and is still headed by its co-founder Anthony Levandowski who continues to pursue the same goal – creating a simple solution for turning regular trucks into self-driving vehicles. In fact, Otto just made a significant step forward in that endeavor as CBS reports that the state of Ohio allowed the company to test its creation on public roads. Ohio's officials said that Otto was permitted to conduct extensive testing of its solution as a part of the state's long-term strategy to support modern transportation solutions.
The testing will start next Monday, December 5th, with one of Otto's self-driving trucks set to travel the 35-mile Route 33 stretching from Dublin to East Liberty in central Ohio. The vehicle won't be traveling in any unusual conditions, as Ohio permitted the San Francisco-based company to test it in regular traffic. Not surprisingly, one of Otto's drivers will still be present inside the vehicle during this test to intervene in case anything goes wrong. As Matt Bruning, spokesperson for the US Department of Transportation put it, public safety is "obviously" the number one concern when autonomous driving technology is concerned.
The state of Ohio is also looking into installing a fiber-optic cable network and a corresponding sensor system along the stretch of Route 33 mentioned above. The ultimate goal is to make this route perfectly suitable for testing of all types of autonomous vehicles. Following the initial test of Otto's self-driving truck on Ohio's public roads, the company is also slated to conduct another test somewhere along the Ohio Turnpike next week, though the Uber-owned company is yet to provide details on that experiment.