Uber is shutting down its self-driving truck program, the company announced this on Monday. It’s the latest example of them moving back again to its self-driving technology efforts in the dire need of making the system much more reliable.
Uber’s self-driving truck program has been involved in controversy since they attained the unit two years ago. The purchase price was reportedly $680 million, though the actual cost may have been much less than that. But after a few days, an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. Uber put its self-driving testing program on hold soon afterward and laid off most of its safety drivers. Only last week did they take their first step towards resuming tests, using self-driving cars in the Pittsburgh area.
“We have decided to stop development on our self-driving truck program and move forward exclusively with cars,” said Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber’s self-driving technology program, in a statement to The Verge. He also added that, “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.”
Employees who had been working in this union will be transferred to Uber’s self-driving car operation, while the company’s on-demand logistics project Uber Freight will not be affected by this pronouncement.
In 2016, Uber acquired the self-driving truck startup Otto, with the idea of uniting self-driving trucks and truck drivers to move Freight all around the country. Nine months after they acquired Otto, they were involved in a lawsuit with Waymo.
The lawsuit alleged that Otto co-founder, Levandowski downloaded over 14,000 confidential and proprietary files before his resignation, and that he was using Waymo’s resources to benefit and aid Otto and Uber. Uber then fired Levandowski. Uber Freight is considered a worthwhile revenue opportunity for the company, as it almost tripled in size, with offices in both San Francisco and Chicago.
But now, Uber has stopped development of autonomous trucks to instead put all their efforts on the self-driving car technology. “Rather than having two groups working side by side, focused on different vehicle platforms, I want us instead collaborating as one team,” Meyhofer said in an email to employees. Let us see what Uber can offer us in the upcoming months.
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