Uber's autonomous trucks are doing the actual job for the customers via Uber Freight, Uber's commercial cargo shipping on-demand app. Uber's Advanced Technology Group is simply deploying its self-driving trucks on the Uber Freight platform, in the same way that the autonomous team within Uber is using the Uber ride-hailing network to test and deploy its self-driving ride share vehicles.
The shipments are first taking place in Arizona, where the trucks are also testing out its robot taxis. Uber said it is using a transfer hub model, in which the trucks drive autonomously on the highway & human drivers can take over for the last few miles.
Uber argues that the use of robot trucks will add more jobs, at least in the short term through transfer hubs. Its self-driving trucks aren't as advanced enough for dock-to-dock runs, and they won't be for a long time. They would still require a safety driver in backup during operations.
In the meantime, shippers use Uber Freight to book a truck driver, who arrives in a conventional long-haul truck. The truck driver then drives a short-haul trip to a transfer hub outside of town, where they meet one of Uber's self-driving trucks with an Uber-employed safety driver on board.
The trailer is then transferred to the self-driving truck, which then drives autonomously for the long-haul, highway portion of the trip. It also includes a safety driver behind the wheel for urgency. The self-driving truck exits the highway and takes the load to a second transfer hub near the destination.
A second driver in a conventional truck picks up the trailer and provides the short haul for delivery to the final destination. That driver just drops off a different load at the same hub before receiving the autonomous truck delivery.
Uber Freight matches truck drivers with companies that need cargo shipped across the country. This is a big step towards commercialization of Uber's autonomous truck technology. Uber is celebrating the modest accomplishment of slotting its self-driving trucks into the daily, mundane reality of long-haul cargo hauling. It is just a small step with huge implications for the future of this industry.