Uber shuts down self-driving truck program

Uber announced that it is shutting down its self-driving truck program, the latest of several reductions to the company's self-driving vehicle efforts since a fatal collision in Tempe, Arizona, in May.
By Rick Docksai | Dec 28, 2018
Uber is ceasing its development of self-driving trucks, according to a company statement on Monday. The move is the latest in a series of cutbacks Uber has made to its self-driving-vehicle program since the death of a Tempe, Arizona, pedestrian from a self-driving Uber car in May.

Uber acquired its self-driving truck program two years ago. The program had previously been an independent startup called Otto and was run by controversial ex-Waymo engineer Anthony Levandroski. Waymo sued Uber shortly after the acquisition, alleging that Levandroski was sharing Waymo trade secrets with Uber.

Uber fired Levandroski and settled the lawsuit earlier this year. And in March, it began testing a hybrid truck model in which a human driver would navigate difficult urban streets at the start and end of the trip, while onboard software could autopilot the truck along the route in between.

All of Uber's self-driving vehicle research ground to a halt in May, however, following the fatal Tempe crash. Uber completely shuttered a major car testing program in Arizona that month and in July laid off around a hundred safety drivershuman operators who sit in the self-driving cars to take control if the car is about to crashin Pittsburgh and San Francisco. The hiatus on self-driving trucks followed.

"We've decided to stop development on our self-driving truck program and move forward exclusively with cars, said Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber's self-driving technology program, on Tuesday. Meyhofer added that Uber will reassign the truck program's personnel to its self-driving-car initiatives.

The self-driving car efforts have greatly scaled down, however. Its self-driving tests in Pittsburgh now only consist of human employees driving in manual mode to gather sensor data. Citylab's Laura Bliss said that any actual self-driving car test runs will only take place along pre-selected routes.


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