A tech start-up is betting on autonomous trucks hitting the road in the U.S. —and soon.

The former Google engineers at Otto designed a $30,000 kit that can retrofit semi-trucks with new autonomous driving technology.

The autonomous truck package includes extra cameras, radar, and lights sensors. A computer gathers all of that information, adds very detailed mapping data, and makes real-time driving decisions.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bK76W1kH4jA]

Otto says it conducted tests with two trucks on I-5 and Highway 101 in California, with minimal driver intervention. The trucks could stay in one lane, and maintain a set speed, slowing or stopping as necessary.

For now, the self-driving trucks still have a human driver, plus back-up braking and power steering systems.

It’s an interesting idea, one that could have big implications for the trucking industry—and for road safety. Although semi-trucks drive just 5.6% of all vehicle miles, they are responsible for 9.5% of highway crash fatalities.

The company is busy retrofitting a third semi-truck for autonomous driving, and says it plans to keep testing a truck a week for the next few months.

Thoughts on autonomous semi-trucks, or other trucking technology? Tell me on Twitter – @KevinColuccio