Uber stops self-driving trucks to focus on self-driving cars

Tinuku - Uber Advanced Technologies Group will stop development of self-driving trucks and instead focus its efforts on self-driving cars. Two years after Uber bought self-driving truck developer Otto to the tune of $680 million, the ride hailing company announced on Monday that the company is shuttering its autonomous truck unit.

“We recently took the important step of returning to public roads in Pittsburgh, and as we look to continue that momentum, we believe having our entire team’s energy and expertise focused on this effort is the best path forward,” says Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group.

Tinuku Uber stops self-driving trucks to focus on self-driving cars

Uber’s self-driving trucks unit is based in San Francisco, while the team dedicated to self-driving cars is located in Pittsburgh. Uber says it will pivot employees focused on self-driving trucks to other work that supports its ongoing development of self-driving technology. If there isn’t a comparable role, Uber will offer relocation to Pittsburgh or a separation package to support the transition.

Uber ATG is going to continue to investigate approaches to highway driving using the car platform, and is going to keep its relationship with truck manufacturers intact. The company may return to self-driving trucks, but only after it has developed the foundation of the self-driving system.

Uber’s self-driving truck efforts have been plagued by controversy since its beginning. Uber bought Otto, the self-driving trucks startup founded by former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski and three others including Lior Ron, who was head of product at Google Maps. As part of the acquisition, Levandowski became head of Uber’s self-driving car research.

Nine months after the acquisition, Uber was embroiled in a trade secrets lawsuit with Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that spun out to become a business under Alphabet. Waymo accused Levandowski of hatching a plan to use trade secrets related to Waymo’s in-house development of LiDAR tech and use it to kickstart Otto and ultimately, Uber’s own self-driving technology program.

The case did go to trial in February 2018, but before a jury would weigh in the two parties reached a settlement agreement. Uber agreed to not incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into their hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement that includes 0.34 percent of Uber equity, per its Series G-1 round $72 billion valuation. In other words, Waymo got about $244.8 million in Uber equity.

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