Uber officials said July 30 it is closing its autonomous trucks segment to concentrate on its self-driving cars.
Uber told CNN, NBC and other news outlets that it wants to focus all its expertise and energy on deploying self-driving cars, adding the company had concluded that is “the best path forward.”
Uber acquired the autonomous trucking startup Otto in August 2016 and shortly afterward began developing and testing self-driving trucks, including a test run in Colorado carrying Budweiser.
However, its Otto acquisition set off a trade secrets firestorm with Google over autonomous vehicle technology after a former Google engineer who helped start Otto was accused of stealing trade secrets.
Uber later fired the engineer, Anthony Levandowski, but media sources reported that Levandowski is involved in another self-driving truck company, Kach.ai.
The case was settled out of court but hardly had that dust settled when one of Uber’s self-driving cars killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, and Uber said it had temporarily halted its entire self-driving vehicle program.
Uber just recently returned its self-driving cars to public roads in Pittsburgh, but at present is using human drivers who are being monitored.
The company noted, however, that Uber Freight, which helps connect truck drivers with shippers and loads, is still in operation and unaffected by the autonomous truck division closure. Uber Freight launched in May 2017.
The self-driving truck portion of Uber was located in San Francisco while its self-driving car operations are in Pittsburgh.
Uber trucking segment employees were given various options, including relocation to Pittsburgh, a separation package, or another Uber slot in self-driving technology if available.