Uber is upping its efforts to expand from the ride-sharing market to commercial freight movement by acquiring Otto, the technology startup that’s developing an aftermarket version of autonomous technology for Class 8 trucks.
Anthony Levandowski, who left Google's self-driving cars project to found Otto with other former Google employees, will lead Uber’s self-driving efforts and report directly to Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO and co-founder.
Otto is already road testing a “suite” of sensors, software, and truck enhancements that could be quickly fitted on existing trucks.
Otto, in its blog, said, “Together with Uber, we will create the future of commercial transportation: first, self-driving trucks that provide drivers unprecedented levels of safety; and second, a platform that matches truck drivers with the right load wherever they are."
“By combining these two technologies, we can create a freight network that is constantly learning and improving," Otto explained. "Each truck that joins the network can provide valuable information that makes all other trucks safer and more efficient. In turn, drivers get paid more and shippers get a more reliable service. Self-driving trucks together with a marketplace create a virtuous cycle where everyone benefits.”
Uber's Kalanick called Otto plus Uber “a dream team. Anthony is one of the world’s leading autonomous engineers: his first invention, a self-driving motorcycle called Ghostrider, is now in the Smithsonian. Just as important, Anthony is a prolific entrepreneur with a real sense of urgency," he said in a post on Uber’s website.
The announcement comes only a month after Tesla founder Elon Musk revealed a “master plan” that includes electric heavy-duty trucks that will feature autonomous driving technology.
Investors and technology watchers praised the move on Twitter: