Uber, the game-changing ride-share company that allows anyone to use a simple smartphone app to turn his or her private vehicle into a taxi, is expanding its transportation footprint with the acquisition of Otto. Otto is a start-up headed by former Google executive Anthony Levandowski, formed to create and manufacture autonomous commercial trucks.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said Levandowski will lead the company’s efforts in developing both passenger and commercial autonomous vehicles. Kalanick also announced Uber has partnered with Volvo to strengthen its manufacturing capability.
Otto is already road testing a “suite” of sensors, software, and truck enhancements that could be quickly fitted on existing heavy trucks.
“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,” Otto stated on its blog.
“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 hopes its venture into autonomous driving will increase road safety, reduce congestion and cut pollution.