Uber is killing off the Otto brand at the center of the firms legal battle with Alphabet's Waymo, the firm revealed today as it launched the latest version of its truck. 'Our self-driving truck effort started in 2016 with the addition of the team from Otto,' Uber said, revealing the move. 'Since then, we've combined the best of Otto and ATG to build technology for both cars and trucks. 'With that upgrade, we've retired the Otto name and integrated all of our self-driving efforts into Uber ATG.' Alphabet's Waymo claimed in a lawsuit earlier this year that Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up Otto, which Uber acquired. In lidar -- or light detection and ranging -- scanning, one or more lasers sends out short pulses, which bounce back when they hit an obstacle, whether clouds, leaves or rocks.
Uber's self-driving truck program feels like it just took off, but after a court trial and several major leadership changes, it's been a long road to a dead-end announced Monday. Back in 2016, Uber acquired Otto -- former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski's self-driving truck startup -- and Uber's self-driving truck program was born. Then Levandowski was sued for taking trade secrets from Google and bringing them to Uber in the acquisition. That was mainly about the LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) laser and sensor technology that uses light to help the autonomous vehicles "see" the road and world around them. Levandowski was effectively fired before the whole saga turned into the lengthy Waymo (Google's autonomous vehicles team) v. Uber case, which ended in a $245 million settlement a few months ago.
Former employees of Google, Apple, Tesla, Cruise Automation, and others -- 40 people in total -- have formed a new San Francisco-based company called Otto with the goal of turning commercial trucks into self-driving freight haulers. Prominent staffers include former Google Maps lead Lior Ron and Anthony Levandowski of Google's self-driving car team. Rather than building their own trucks, Otto is hoping to make hardware kits for existing truck models that would either be installed by service centers, or possibly at the factory if the company is able to forge manufacturer partnerships. Unlike Google's self-driving car project, Otto would at least initially focus on highway driving, which account for the overwhelming majority of a typical truck route; the human drivers would still handle surface streets, loading, unloading, and the like. Right now, the company is testing with the Volvo VNL 780, but hopes to work with many so-called Class 8 trucks, which are the largest, heaviest trucks on American roads.
To many, that might seem a frightening idea, even at a time when a few dozen of Google's driverless cars are cruising city streets in California, Texas, Washington and Arizona. But Anthony Levandowski, a robot-loving engineer who helped steer Google's self-driving technology, is convinced autonomous big rigs will be the next big thing on the road to a safer transportation system. Otto is aiming to equip trucks with software, sensors, lasers and cameras so they eventually will be able to navigate the more than 220,000 miles of U.S. highways on their own, while a human driver naps in the back of the cab or handles other tasks Anthony Levandowski, a robot-loving engineer who helped steer Google's self-driving technology, is convinced autonomous big rigs will be the next big thing on the road to a safer transportation system Levandowski left Google earlier this year to pursue his vision at Otto, a San Francisco startup the he co-founded with two other former Google employees, Lior Ron and Don Burnette, and another robotics expert, Claire Delaunay. Otto is aiming to equip trucks with software, sensors, lasers and cameras so they eventually will be able to navigate the more than 220,000 miles of U.S. highways on their own, while a human driver naps in the back of the cab or handles other tasks. For now, the robot truckers would only take control on the highways, leaving humans to handle the tougher task of wending through city streets.
A name that came up often during the Uber v. Waymo trade secrets trial is back in the headlines: Anthony Levandowski. Its "intelligent driving" system for commercial trucks, Copilot, was released Tuesday. It's similar to Tesla's Autopilot, featuring Level 2 autonomous features that require a fully attentive and alert driver, but it's for truckers. Levandowski worked for Google's Waymo before he left to start his self-driving truck company, Otto, which was almost immediately purchased by Uber. He was then fired from Uber after Waymo said he stole proprietary information about self-driving tech like LiDAR, which uses light and lasers to help vehicles "see."