Trucking autonomy upstart Otto acquired by Uber

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Updated Oct 27, 2016

otto-truckTrucking technology upstart Otto, who has developed a retrofit package that allows heavy trucks to drive autonomously on the highway, was acquired by Uber Thursday in a move that unlocks the prospect of freight movement capabilities for the San Francisco-based ride sharing service.

“Basically [Uber and Otto are] starting a commercial transportation business,” says Otto founder Lior Ron. “Specifically we’re going to build on Otto’s capabilities for self-driving trucks and introduce other ways to help the freight industry and truck drivers.”

The company’s approach to trucking is built on the concept of self-driving trucks, which Ron says provide increased safety. Secondly, Ron says the companies expect to develop an on-demand platform that matches drivers with loads and shippers with carriers.

Self-driving trucks, Ron says, provide safety, predicability and the ability to keep the trucks on the road. The platform, he adds, is a way to help boost productivity, aid carriers in finding freight and improve efficiencies in marketplace.

“The self-driving piece is something that can increase capacity over time,” Ron says. “We see the platform as a way to help drivers and fleets and owner ops to be more productive. We can use the know-how that Uber has on the passenger platform side and use that to evolve a similar solution on the commercial side.”

To-date, Ron says Otto has been focused on developing its autonomous technologies but with the Uber partnership, will focus on building a platform with feedback from trucking stakeholders on their “pain-points.”

“We’re starting essentially today,” he says. “We want to help the industry as a whole. We want to make the highway safe. We want to help people find freight efficiency.”

1-fzftNi3Hx_tkD1W2f77kMQ-2016-08-18-09-08Once the platform is rolled out, Roy said he didn’t see autonomy as being a requirement for carriers to participate. However, he said it is a key component in maximizing the efficiencies the company seeks to provide.

“[By using Otto’s autonomy and the Uber platform], we can provide more information on where the truck is and we can plan the route more productively,” he says. “We see those technologies as working together.”

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This isn’t Uber’s first foray into trucking. Company co-founder Garrett Camp is an investor in Convoy, an on-demand service that allows shippers to request a truck, get price quotes and track the cargo to its delivery.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]