Uber Killing Off Autonomous Trucking Division

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
uber killing off autonomous trucking division

Uber is shutting down its self-driving trucks unit due to a lack of progress and the controversy surrounding its multi-million dollar acquisition of Otto in 2016. The firm was purchased with the intent of developing self-driving cargo haulers, potentially saving the trucking company a fortune by outsourcing driving jobs to robots. But it was slow to reach that goal and ran head-on with a serious distraction almost immediately.

Initially, things looked promising. Otto was famous for engineering a truck that hauled a trailer full of beer across 120 miles of Colorado highway without human intervention. But it found a different sort of fame after its founder, Anthony Levandowski, took over as head of Uber’s self-driving car research and Waymo faulted him with handing over trade secrets.

As a former engineer for Google’s autonomous vehicle project (which would later evolve into Waymo), Levandowski was privy to sensitive information he was later accused of selling as part of the Otto buyout.

The associated lawsuit is settled, with Uber agreeing to not incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into its self-driving hardware and software. While this may not have been what led to the firm abandoning its trucking program, it was likely a contributing factor. More likely, Uber simply found itself in a position necessitating it focus primarily on passenger vehicles.

“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,” explained Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group.

With a high-profile fatal incident with a pedestrian in its rearview mirror, the firm likely doesn’t want to pull attention away from the passenger vehicle program. In fact, it has only just reinstated testing in Pittsburgh under the new safety guidelines.

Uber Freight, which connects drivers with shipping clients via a smartphone app, will be unaffected by the decision to eliminate the self-driving truck unit. Employees who find themselves out of a job will be relocated to other internal roles within autonomous vehicle development or awarded a severance package.

[Image: Uber]

Join the conversation
2 of 9 comments
  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Aug 01, 2018

    And there's always one human in a big group photo who isn't looking where they're supposed to. She's in the front row.

  • CobraJet CobraJet on Aug 01, 2018

    This is similar to a company called GreenTech Automotive that took the state of Mississippi for a ride. Their scheme was to build electric cars. They built a shell of a plant building in Robinsonville, MS which looks very similar inside to this one. They hired employees who would move body panels and parts around when the press was there and pretend to be in production. They finally did produce a few small vehicles akin to electric golf carts with full bodies. I don't think any were sold, and probably couldn't meet safety standards. Of note, the founder of this so-called company was former governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe. They filed for bankruptcy early this year.

  • THX1136 Maybe Mark Worman/Graveyard Carz will see this, buy the thing and restore it to it's original condition.
  • THX1136 Fain's comments are ridiculous to these ears. "Struggling to get by. . ." - really? The only reason any would be struggling is due to living beyond said individuals means (spending money like the gubment does). Both political entities 'visiting' the situation is one more reason for this baby to vote for neither.
  • Sgeffe 400 horsepower? In a German 2-point-zero-tee?My God, that'll blow sky-high the day after the warranty expires!
  • EBFlex Did he deboard the plane with the baby steps? Anyway I called it. Right yet again:Jeff-“”I doubt President Biden would join striking UAW workers. It’s one thing to give support to strikers and another to join strikers on the picket line.”Well he’s a complete and total moron. So it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he joined them on the picket line. If an idiot would do it, then it’s something Brandon would do..”
  • Fred Trump's "concerted effort" will be to speak at a non-union plant. Don't forget he promised to keep Lordstown open.