Uber is shutting down the self-driving truck unit of its Advanced Technologies Group that was created through a 2016 acquisition of startup Otto which eventually got the company sued by Google spinoff Waymo and ended up costing it $245 million in equity on top of the agreed purchase fee. The San Francisco, California-based firm is said to have announced the decision on Monday in an email to employees authored by Uber ATG chief Eric Meyhofer who described the move as an attempt to streamline the company’s autonomous driving efforts and focus the entirety of its resources on self-driving cars. The industry veteran didn’t rule out the possibility of renewing the firm’s driverless truck focus further down the road but said the management decided that the best way forward is to take R&D one application at a time, with consumer-facing use cases taking precedence.
The development won’t affect Uber Freight, a platform for connecting freight truck drivers with shipping companies, TechCrunch reports, citing a copy of Mr. Meyhofer’s email. The unit in question is presently being internally touted as one of the most promising alternative revenue sources for Uber, much like Uber Eats is. Its services that effectively allow truck drivers to do freelance work are now being offered on a national level and an international expansion may also be on the cards in the near future.
The San Francisco self-driving truck lab will be partially relocated to Pittsburgh where Uber’s autonomous car unit is based, though the firm will first attempt finding its existing employees a comparable position focused on general autonomous driving technologies in its hometown. Those who can’t be appointed to another role in the city and refuse relocation will be offered severance packages. Anthony Levandowski, Otto co-founder who started another company earlier this year and was at the center of trade secret theft allegations raised by Waymo, sold his self-driving car startup to Uber for $680 million two years ago. Uber‘s autonomous fleet has been absent from public roads in the country since March due to a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona, with testing only resuming in Pittsburgh last week.