Uber has quietly put the Otto brand name out to pasture, according to published reports out of San Francisco. As Forbes reports, “Uber consolidated Otto’s activities under its Advanced Technologies Group, or Uber ATG, in April and ‘retired the Otto name.’” Uber has had no further comment on the move since, although the Forbes article does note that “the change came shortly after the dismissal of a trademark infringement suit brought by Kitchener, Ontario-based Otto Motors, a unit of Clearpath Robotics that makes autonomous vehicles for warehouses and industrial facilities.”
There is no word yet from Uber on what the company will rename its autonomous truck technology business. In a written statement to Forbes, Otto Motors spokesperson Meghan Hennessey said, “We are continuing to operate under the Otto brand, whereas Uber has recently announced on its website that it is retiring the Otto name.”
The report comes amidst a tough year for Uber’s autonomous vehicle development. Uber acquired Otto last summer, only to have another autonomous technology company, Google’s Waymo business division, file suit against it in February of this year. The lawsuit accused Otto co-founder and former Waymo employee, Anthony Levandowski, of stealing tech secrets and colluding with Uber to have that company acquire Otto once the company was up and running.
When Uber launched its much-anticipated Uber Freight brokerage app last week, some observers were surprised that it had nothing to do with autonomous trucks. While there’s much speculation that Uber Freight and the company’s autonomous truck division will eventually synchronize operations and offerings, the company is downplaying such talk, for now, telling HDT Editor in Chief Deborah Lockridge, “I can say Uber’s mission is to make transportation reliable, seamless and safe, and it has lots of bets all over the place,” from flying cars to self-driving cars and trucks.
“Right now self-driving trucks and Uber Freight are two independent bets on what the future of trucking might look like. Certainly when Uber bought [autonomous truck tech start-up] Otto, it whet its appetite for what it could do in the trucking space. Right now that’s two separate teams working on two separate paths… One day will they cross paths and create something together? Possibly, but it’s not something the team is focused on right now.”
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