Uber to buy self-driving truck start-up Otto for $680m

19 Aug 2016

Not satisfied with developing its own fleet of autonomous cars, Uber is now looking to move into the autonomous trucking business too, with news that it has bid $680m for the start-up Otto.

With Uber starting to roll out its first self-driving car fleet in the US city of Pittsburgh this month – with human supervision – its decision to also purchase a self-driving truck start-up is perhaps unsurprising.

As far as start-ups go, Otto – born out of an idea created by former Google employees – is still very much fresh-faced, having only been founded earlier this year, but now it and its 91 employees will fall under Uber’s umbrella.

Future Human

The news was announced by both companies on their blogs but additional reports suggest that Otto’s current employees are set to make a significant windfall as they will collectively receive 20pc of any profits from Uber’s future self-driving truck business.

Otto first came to the attention of the wider world after it released a kit that would let you retroactively turn a truck into a semi-autonomous vehicle, allowing the driver to let the truck drive by itself on major motorways.

‘We can help make transportation as reliable as running water’

From a corporate standpoint, Uber confirmed that Otto’s co-founder, Anthony Levandowski, will step in as Uber’s head of its self-driving vehicle division.

“When it comes to this advanced technology stack, Otto plus Uber is a dream team,” said Uber’s CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick.

“Together, we now have one of the strongest autonomous engineering groups in the world.”

Meanwhile, Otto said in its post: “By joining forces with Uber we can fast forward to the future. Together, Otto and Uber can build the backbone of the rapidly-approaching self-driving freight system.

“We can help make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone, whether you’re talking people or packages.”

Trucks on highway image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic