Uber shuts its self-driving truck project

By Anuj Sharma - July 31, 2018
Uber Freight, a business unit that helps truck drivers connect with shipping companies, is unaffected by this decision. The moves comes soon after the cab hailing service put its autonomous vehicles b....

Ride-hailing company Uber’s momentum to dominate the future of the trucking industry is no more. According to a confirmed statement from Uber’s spokesperson, the company has decided to shut its self-driving truck project as the truck business was no longer viable in the freight shipping industry

Uber Freight, a business unit that helps truck drivers connect with shipping companies, is unaffected by this decision.

“We’ve decided to stop development on our self-driving truck programme and move forward exclusively with cars,” TechCrunch.com quoted Eric Meyhofer, Head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group as saying.

“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,” Meyhofer added.

The project can be traced back to Uber’s acquisition of a self-driving truck start-up called Otto in 2016. The company soon after shipped Budweiser beer using Otto’s self-driving trucks in Colorado. But, the acquisition sparked a legal dispute with Google’s self-driving car division Waymo. Waymo alleged that Otto was a shell company meant to deliver stolen technology by Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer who founded the startup and was later appointed head of Uber’s autonomous division.

But, to a surprise both the companies entered into a settlement wherein Uber agreed to give Waymo $245 million worth of Uber’s private shares at its 2015 valuation, while Waymo emphasised that Uber’s self-driving car programme will not use Waymo’s purported trade secrets.

However things turned bad for Uber after a self-driving Uber vehicle got struck and killed a 49-year-old woman crossing the street in Tempe, Arizona. Uber then immediately stranded its fleet operations as federal investigators began to search what went wrong.

Uber’s decision to shut down its self-driving trucks operation comes just a week after the company put its autonomous vehicles back on Pittsburgh’s city streets. For now, Uber’s modified self-driving Volvo XC90 vehicles are now under human control.

This human-integrated rollout is a step toward Uber’s goal to re-launch its autonomous vehicle testing programme in Pittsburgh.

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