Uber to close its self-driving trucks division

Eric Meyhofer

Uber is to close its self-driving trucks unit, TechCrunch reports. Uber Advanced Technologies Group will end development of self-driving trucks and focus its energies on self-driving cars. Uber Freight, a business unit that helps truck drivers connect with shipping companies, is unaffected by the decision.

Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said in an email to employees seen by TechCrunch: “Rather than having two groups working side by side, focused on different vehicle platforms, I want us instead collaborating as one team. “I know we’re all super proud of what the Trucks team has accomplished, and we continue to see the incredible promise of self-driving technology applied to moving freight across the country. But we believe delivering on self-driving for passenger applications first, and then bringing it to freight applications down the line, is the best path forward. For now, we need the focus of one team, with one clear objective.”

Uber’s journey into the world of self-driving truck efforts began when it bought Otto, the self-driving trucks startup founded by former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski and three others, in 2016. Nine months later, Uber found itself embroiled in a lawsuit with Google self-driving project Waymo, which accused Levandowski of hatching a plan to use trade secrets related to Waymo’s development of LiDAR tech and use it to kickstart Otto and Uber’s own self-driving technology platform.

Levandowski was subsequently fired by Uber, but as the case went to trial in February of this year, the two companies reached a settlement, with Uber agreeing to not incorporate Waymo’s confidential information that Levandowski was accused of stealing into its hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement of around $240m in Uber equity.