Ride-sharing giant Uber is winding down its self-driving truck technology business, better known as Otto, which Uber acquired in 2016 for $680 million.
Officially, Uber had previously retired the Otto name and folded that company’s tech and workers into its Advanced Technologies Group, but the Otto moniker remained in the public consciousness.
Now, however, it’s exiting the self-driving truck technology business altogether.
Uber said the decision to exit self-driving trucks will have no effect on Uber Freight, its business that connects trucking companies with drivers to haul cargo across the country. The company also said it has no plans to exit the market for self-driving car technology.
“We’ve decided to stop development on our self-driving truck program and move forward exclusively with cars,” said Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, in a statement provided by the company. “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.”
Meyerhof was referring to Uber getting back into testing self-driving cars on public roads after it suspended such operations across North America following an accident earlier this year, when an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a female pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. That car had a driving assistant in the front passenger seat, and the accident called into question the viability of self-driving cars on public streets.
Uber’s self-driving truck business was probably known more for being in the courtroom rather than on the nation’s highways. Otto founder Anthony Levandowski previously worked for Waymo, the self-driving car business owned by Google parent Alphabet. Not long after acquiring Otto, Waymo sued Uber for stealing trade secrets, and accused Levandowski of stealing 14,000 files before he left Waymo.
In February of this year, Waymo and Uber settled the case, with Waymo acquiring a $245 million stake in Uber and Uber pledging to not use any Waymo technology in its self-driving car efforts.
Uber said that employees affected by the self-driving truck operations shutdown will be offered the opportunity to move into other self-driving technology efforts at the company.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day's top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter