Just months after its public launch, the self-driving truck startup Otto has been purchased by the ride-hailing giant Uber for an undisclosed amount. According to a Bloomberg estimate, the deal could be valued at about $680 million.
Uber, whose “anyone-can-be-a-cabbie” business model has already shaken up the taxi industry, is also looking to provide autonomous car services in cities. Later this month, the company plans to begin testing self-driving cars on the streets of Pittsburgh, although a human — an Uber engineer rather than a regular self-employed driver — will remain at the wheel to take over if there’s trouble.
These recent moves signal Uber’s desire to take human drivers out of its business equation entirely. The timing is noteworthy as just yesterday, a U.S. District Court judge in California rejected the company’s proposal to settle a class-action lawsuit by current and former Uber drivers who claimed they should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors.
Otto Plus Uber = ‘Dream Team’
Co-founded by several veterans of Google, including Anthony Levandowski, who was formerly an engineer with Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, Otto just launched in May. The company, which has been testing sensor-equipped autonomous trucks (pictured above), said its mission is to improve highway safety and trucking efficiency.
“Together with Uber, we will create the future of commercial transportation: first, self-driving trucks that provide drivers unprecedented levels of safety; and second, a platform that matches truck drivers with the right load wherever they are,” the company noted yesterday in a blog post.
When it comes to this advanced technology stack, Otto plus Uber is a “dream team,” Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a post on his company’s blog yesterday.
“Anthony is one of the world’s leading autonomous engineers: his first invention, a self-driving motorcycle called Ghostrider, is now…