Uber folds self-driving trucks division

The ride-hailing firm has decided to focus its efforts on developing self-driving passenger cars.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Uber is folding its self-driving truck program, the company confirmed Monday, to focus exclusively on building its own self-driving passenger car technology.

"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," Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said in a statement provided to ZDNet.

Back in March, Uber halted its self-driving car tests in every city in the US after a pedestrian in Arizona was killed by an Uber car operating in autonomous mode. Just last week the company announced it would resume testing its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh -- but in manual mode, with a human driver always in control.

Uber launched its self-driving truck division with the 2016 acquisition of Otto. However, the acquisition set off a legal battle over allegedly stolen trade secrets with the Alphabet-owned autonomous car company Waymo. Uber and Waymo settled the suit earlier this year, with Uber agreeing to pay Waymo $245 million in cash.

The trucking industry is primed for early adoption of autonomous technology, but Uber has decided that it doesn't need to immediately develop self-driving trucks to remain competitive in the freight logistics area, the company said to ZDNet.

The decision to close its self-driving truck program doesn't affect Uber Freight, the Uber app that connects truck drivers with available commercial trucking jobs. Uber noted that it has tripled the size of its Uber Freight team over the last 15 months, with offices in San Francisco and Chicago. Meanwhile, load volume within the program is doubling every quarter, the company said.

Employees who were working on the self-driving truck program will pivot to other work supporting self-driving technology development, Uber said. Where there isn't a comparable role available for employees, Uber will offer relocation or a separation package to support the transition.

The company is also continuing to invest in scalable LiDAR technology.

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