Uber Freight founder Lior Ron talks about what artifiicial intelligence means for logistics during the Deliver conference for shipper customers.  -  Photo: Uber Freight

Uber Freight founder Lior Ron talks about what artifiicial intelligence means for logistics during the Deliver conference for shipper customers.

Photo: Uber Freight

Two years ago, Uber Freight bought third-party logistics provider Transplace in a $2.25 billion deal and said the acquisition would “enable a comprehensive end-to-end shipper-to-carrier solution.”

The acquisition brought more freight under Uber’s management. It also brought a wealth of real-world transportation and logistics experience. Add to that the rapid recent rise in the capabilities of artificial intelligence, and the result is supply chain efficiency, visibility, and insights at a new level.

Uber Freight now works with thousands of shippers, including some of the largest in the world, and has had 2 million drivers registered since the founding of the company. Today it’s managing $18 billion in freight. While Uber Freight was founded with the small carrier and owner-operator in mind, it has grown to encompass large carriers in its system, as well. That level of scale, the amount of data flowing, can provide insights that Uber Freight Founder and CEO Lior Ron called “a bit of the magic sauce.”

In a virtual news conference from Uber Freight’s shipper conference Sept. 28, Ron said Uber Freight is announcing the “most complete transformation and update in our history. We’re doubling down on our technology, services, and logistics investments, in a time when other companies might be struggling with conditions in logistics and the freight market,” he said, referencing the current freight recession. “This is, for us, a market where we transcend our brokerage roots.”

Uber Freight ssid technology advances mean "a transformative shift in procurement practices" in its introduction of Uber Freight Exchange.  -  Photo: Uber Freight

Uber Freight ssid technology advances mean "a transformative shift in procurement practices" in its introduction of Uber Freight Exchange.

Photo: Uber Freight

Uber Freight has made a deep investment in technology, with $120 million invested since the acquisition. That investment is focused heavily on enterprise applications that span logistics software solutions, generative AI and data-enabled insights tools, as well as capacity and mode expansions.

“We see this as a very special moment in logistics,” Ron said. Today, computers are available with the intelligence, computing power, and large-language models that can change everything.

“We are rethinking the entire company as an AI-first approach and fully integrating AI into every facet of the company.”

“For us, the most exciting use of AI in logistics will be using it to improve logistics and supply chain decisions.”

What’s a Large Language Model?

As Nvidia explains, large language models (LLMs) are deep learning algorithms that can recognize, summarize, translate, predict, and generate content using very large datasets. They have “unlocked an AI model’s ability to generate human-like content.”

What This Means for Motor Carriers

While the Uber Freight announcements this week are primarily aimed at shippers, Ron said there are benefits for the motor carriers and owner-operators using Uber Freight’s load-brokering technology.

The best way to serve carriers, he said, is helping them connect to shippers, to help them be a carrier of choice.

Ron said the new tech will help give carriers a more integrated experience for all their interaction with Uber Freight, whether it’s a brokered load on the Uber Freight app or bidding on a contract sent via the new Uber Freight Exchange. “It’s just easier to do business with us,” he said.

For instance, the new AI-driven solutions will do an even better job of letting shippers know there are problems at their facilities that are causing detention or driver dissatisfaction.

The Facility Ratings feature in the Uber Freight app, introduced in 2019, empowers carriers and drivers to share feedback on their experiences at shipping facilities.

With the new Uber Freight platforms for shippers, “we can now surface that even more in the TMS and say, ‘Hey, shipper, this is what’s happening in your facilities’” with the kind of analysis and correlation they can’t do on their own, Ron said.

The new Uber procurement platform, he added, can open the door for more small- to medium-size fleets to win business, “democratizing access to procurement. If I’m a shipper, it’s so easy for me to run an auction now, I can invite new carriers to my network more easily.”

Insights AI

Uber Freight’s new Insights AI uses generative AI to power an insights tool that will transform decision-making in logistics and support transportation teams from granular, tactical views to more complex, strategic analyses.

Ron called it a “co-pilot for logistics,” a chatbot that allows shippers to simply ask logistics questions and get answers in seconds. Service questions, what are my worst-performing lanes, where are the bottlenecks, how do I compare to my peers, where do I pay the most detention and how can I improve that?

“Think about what it means for supply chain decision-making,” Ron said. “It allows decision-makers to replace months and months of analysis and reports and weeks and weeks of feedback loops. This is, we think, a game-changer.”

Uber Freight Exchange

Uber Freight also has added a stand-alone software-as-a-service solution, Uber Freight Exchange, designed for shippers and carriers to expedite freight procurement.

Uber Freight Exchange is a neutral platform open to all shippers and carriers. A shipper can use it to run auctions with its own carriers, in addition to Uber Freight’s network of 100,000 carriers across the U.S.

Regardless of whether Uber Freight executes or the shipper executes, Uber Freight Exchange can send information on what shippers need to procure in the way of freight capacity out to the carriers using the Uber Freight app or the carrier portal. Those carriers “can see all the opportunities coming their way from a contract perspective,” Ron said.

Initial upgrades to the Uber Freight TMS will focus on delivering the next generation of visibility, foresight, and control through the Control Tower module.  -  Photo: Uber Freight

Initial upgrades to the Uber Freight TMS will focus on delivering the next generation of visibility, foresight, and control through the Control Tower module.

Photo: Uber Freight

An “Uberized” TMS

Uber Freight is rolling out the most comprehensive update of the Uber Freight TMS (transportation management system) since it was launched by Transplace in 2005. It’s used by many large shippers to run their supply chain operations.

The Uber Freight TMS now is an all-in-one solution for planning, executing, and monitoring complex logistics operations across modes and regions.

“This takes it to a whole new level,” Ron explained. “What we’ve done is really imagine what it means to ‘Uberize’ the TMS. A new look and feel. It’s super intuitive, all in the cloud, super modern in an Uber way, next-generation ease of use.”

Module by module, he said, Uber has been working to “re-imagine what it means to run a modern logistics operation.”

A control tower provides an easy-to-use, comprehensive way for shippers to understand what’s happening across their supply chain.

For the first time, shippers have full end-to-end visibility across their entire supply chain, from the container coming across the ocean, through the dray moves, the truck taking it to the distribution center, all the way to the last-mile delivery “can all be viewed end to end in an integrated way.”

Expanding Power-Only Program

Uber is expanding the footprint of its Powerloop program, launched five years ago, to 17 new states, for a total of 20, to meet surging demand for drop-and-hook and dedicated capacity solutions.

“Powerloop is now ready for prime time,” Ron said. “This is one of our most requested features in terms of innovation. We now have hundreds and hundreds of trailers and the numbers are growing very fast.”

More and more shippers and carriers want to reduce the amount of time-consuming live trailer loading and unloading, where a driver may have to sit and wait to be loaded or unloaded, and the shipper may end up incurring detention.

The program has expanded operational scope from localized freight within Texas, California and Georgia, to regional and over-the-road freight stretching across several new states: Arizona, Utah, New Jersey, New York, Arkansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Kentucky.

Autonomous Freight Networks

Although it shuttered its own autonomous truck business five years ago, Uber Freight said it continues to gain ground with its extensive autonomous freight network in North America, with active partnerships with the leading developers and dozens of shippers moving autonomous loads on the network daily.

In September, the company achieved a milestone of 100,000 autonomous miles driven with AV carriers on the network, and recently announced a partnership with autonomous-truck company Waabi.

All this signifies where Uber Freight is going, Ron said, transforming the company from its load-matching roots into “an enterprise software company that can offer the most comprehensive, end-to-end suite for shippers and carriers.”

Updated 10/2/2023 to clarify that Uber works with thousands of shippers; a previous figure was referring only to very large shippers.

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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