Uber Ends Foray Into Self-Driving Trucks

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(Newswire.net — August 13, 2018) –Uber, and other companies, aimed to target the industry with self-driving semi-trucks.

The vehicles, which operate primarily on the interstate and freeways, are easier to automate despite the higher, inherent risk that semi-trucks pose. Uber closed its self-driving truck division last week after ending a high-profile legal battle when it acquired Otto in 2016.

Otto, co-founded by Don Burnette, was a trucking startup.

Burnette played a key role in Waymo, a self-driving car program started by Google. While working for the company, he decided it was time to depart and create a company called Otto with two additional Google employees.

Otto was sold for $680 million to Uber, all in stock. The company was then sued when Waymo declared that Otto stole trade secrets from the company. Uber paid Waymo $245 million in stock and has now declared that the company will focus only on autonomous cars.

Uber’s self-driving vehicles have come under scrutiny ever since an accident led to the death of an Arizona woman. The company pulled all of their self-driving vehicles off of the road following the accident. The woman was crossing the street at the time of the accident, according to the accident report. Uber’s vehicle had a human behind the wheel at the time of the accident despite the vehicle being in self-driving mode.

Kodiak, which is being called an Otto reboot, is also founded by Burnette. The company has raised $40 million in funding, and claims that sensory technology has greatly advanced since Otto was founded.

Burnette claims that his team has learned a lot about the industry since the start of 2016. He has spoken to truckers and shippers to better understand the industry and the needs that the company can fill.

Kodiak has remained quiet on the details of their business, but many believe that the company will follow in the footsteps of Otto and try to offer an aftermarket system that can be bolted on to trucks to enable self-driving.

Burnette claims that his new venture has no IP risks with Otto primarily because the company plans to buy LIDAR off-the-shelf. The company will create its own custom software which will pair with the system, lowering the risks of any IP issues in the future.