The driver's seat may be empty, but this truck knows where it's going. Embark is a new self-driving truck company that has begun testing its autonomous big rig in Nevada. SAN FRANCISCO -- Just how hot is the self-driving vehicle space? So hot that if you're a sharp 21-year-old with robotics experience and some smart friends, you can land millions to start your own company. Embark, a new self-driving truck startup that launched Friday, is the brainchild of University of Waterloo buddies Alex Rodrigues and Brandon Moak, also 21.
Two years after Uber paid $680 million to buy the self-driving truck startup Otto, the company is folding that effort. In this photo from 2016, an Otto engineer sits behind the steering wheel of a self-driving, big-rig truck during a demonstration in San Francisco. Two years after Uber paid $680 million to buy the self-driving truck startup Otto, the company is folding that effort. In this photo from 2016, an Otto engineer sits behind the steering wheel of a self-driving, big-rig truck during a demonstration in San Francisco. Uber is shutting down its self-driving truck program, nearly six months after it settled a lawsuit from Waymo, the Google spinoff that accused Uber of using its proprietary designs.
Uber is folding its self-driving truck program, the company confirmed Monday, to focus exclusively on building its own self-driving passenger car technology. "We recently took the important step of returning to public roads in Pittsburgh, and as we look to continue that momentum, we believe having our entire team's energy and expertise focused on this effort is the best path forward," Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said in a statement provided to ZDNet. Back in March, Uber halted its self-driving car tests in every city in the US after a pedestrian in Arizona was killed by an Uber car operating in autonomous mode. Just last week the company announced it would resume testing its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh -- but in manual mode, with a human driver always in control. Uber launched its self-driving truck division with the 2016 acquisition of Otto.
The race to create self-driving trucks just got a little less crowded. That's because Uber announced Monday that the ride-hailing giant is shuttering its self-driving truck program, a division that made history in 2016 by completing the world's first autonomous truck delivery -- 50,000 cans of Budweiser. That division -- a part of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group -- had other successes as well, including delivering freight on highways in Arizona using automated Volvo big rigs. The robot-driven Volvo trucks were rolled out in November and included a human backup driver, the company said. The company did not have a formal partnership with Volvo but, instead, retrofitted Volvo trucks with its technology.
Ride-hailing giant Uber announced on Thursday that is has acquired Otto for approximately $680 million. All of Otto's team, which includes ex-leader of Google's self-driving project, Anthony Levandowski, will move to Uber. They will work on the company's self-driving project and report directly to CEO Travis Kalanick. Otto's research facilities in Palo Alto and San Francisco will continue to operate, and will share data with Uber's Pittsburgh research center. The acquisition price, at the time of writing, is calculated at $680 million by Bloomberg.