Uber buys Otto and teams up with Volvo

This week saw the ride-sharing giant, Uber, beginning to move in a brand new direction, after they purchased a self-driving truck startup called Otto and announced a team-up with Volvo. Otto is a startup company that currently hires fewer than 100 employees and the deal was worth a reported US$680 million, which equates to about one percent of Uber’s value.

Heading up Otto is autonomous mobility heavyweight, Anthony Levandowski, who was one of the Google self-driving car team, and he will remain in position to lead the Uber/Otto efforts out of Palto Alto, San Francisco. Self-driving trucks are being developed by a number of companies at present, not least Mercedes Benz which has trialled three autonomous trucks on the highways between Stuttgart in Germany and Rotterdam in Holland.

Read also: Autonomous Truck hits the Public Road.

Self-driving technology in trucking could possibly overcome a number of the issues associated with the big rigs. In the US of A, although trucks account for a mere 5.6 percent of the miles covered on the roads there per year, they are responsible for a disproportionate 9.6 percent of all road deaths. Perhaps more stunning is the statistics for pollution, whereby their emissions account for 28 percent of the total whilst being only one percent of the total road vehicles.

The tie-up with Volvo is said to be worth about US$300 million and will see the testing of Uber’s autonomous systems on the Volvo scalable platforms. In the first instance, this looks like it will be mostly in the large sized XC90 and will see 100 self-driving ‘boxy but good’ Volvos hitting the streets of Pittsburgh by year end, where they will become part of the Uber offering there.

In this case, the effort is seen as being more about saving lives than saving the environment, with both companies issuing releases that talk about the million or so people who lose their lives every year on public roads. Of course saving the planet and the environment are both noble causes, but just for a moment, think about the number of ordinary folk who will lose their livelihoods when trucks and taxis drive themselves.

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