In a move that may have surprised many, Uber has decided to stop development of self-driving trucks. Instead, the ride hailing giant has decided to concentrate its autonomous vehicle efforts strictly to cars.
Through its acquisition of Otto in 2016, Uber had sought to disrupt freight hauling with self-driving trucks and Uber Freight, its smartphone app that connects truck drivers and shippers. Although this latest move will end Uber’s development of self-driving trucks, Uber freight will continue to function and remain mostly unaffected.
Trucking has longed been viewed by transportation industry experts as a natural application for self-driving technology because of the relative predictability of highways compared with busy city streets. Uber strategy had been to integrate manual trucking with self-driving trucks by maintaining manual trucks for long hauls and using the self-driving technology for short hauls.
Apparently, Uber management does not feel that developing autonomous trucks is necessary to stay competitive in the freight logistic industry. Uber freight will help them achieve that goal by remaining in operation.
Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group believes the decision is a good strategy and remarked that “we believe having our entire team’s energy and expertise focused on (self-driving cars) is the best path forward,”. Employees who were working on the self-driving truck program will be shifted to other roles related to autonomous driving technology. The company will also offer relocation benefits or a severance package in cases where a comparable role is not available.
Uber had recently put its self-driving car program on hold after a much-publicized incident in which one of its test vehicles hit and killed a woman in Tempe Arizona, in March. Now after this latest decision, the self-driving car program is back on track as test vehicles have returned to the road in Pittsburgh but are being controlled by human drivers rather than operating autonomously.