Uber has acquired Otto, a 90-plus person technology startup the stated mission of which is to rethink transportation, starting with self-driving trucks. Anthony Levandowski, Otto’s co-founder, will now lead Uber’s self-driving efforts and report directly to Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO and Co-Founder—across personal transportation, delivery and trucking—in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Pittsburgh.
Otto hardware and software is tuned for the consistent patterns and easy-to-predict road conditions of highway driving. Sensors are installed high atop existing trucks, offering vehicles an unobstructed view of the road ahead. Highways represent only 5% of US roads, allowing Otto to focus its testing on this specific set of critical trucking routes.
Together, we now have one of the strongest autonomous engineering groups in the world; self-driving trucks and cars that are already on the road thanks to Otto and Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh; the practical experience that comes from running ridesharing and delivery services in hundreds of cities; with the data and intelligence that comes from doing 1.2 billion miles on the road every month.
… Of course, this is just the start, especially when it comes to safety. Over one million people die on the world’s roads every year and 90 percent of these accidents are due to human error. In the US, traffic accidents are a leading cause of death for people under 25. This is a tragedy that self-driving technology can help solve. That’s why our partnership with Swedish car maker Volvo, which we’re also announcing today, is so important. Volvo has consistently been a leader when it comes to safety. And partnership is crucial to our self-driving strategy because Uber has no experience making cars. To do it well is incredibly hard, as I realized on my first visit to a car manufacturing plant several years ago. By combining Uber’s self-driving technology with Volvo’s state-of-the art vehicles and safety technology, we’ll get to the future faster than going it alone.—Travis Kalanick