Uber stops developing unmanned trucks

    Partially unmanned Uber truck during testing

    Uber yesterday announced it was stopping the development of unmanned trucks. Instead, it will focus on passenger roboMobiles.

    Uber planned to integrate the national unmanned truck network into the Uber Freight cargo delivery system, where truck drivers, senders and consignees of goods can arrange an order through a mobile application. Apparently, the project turned out to be more difficult than originally intended.

    Uber has become one of the world's leading developers of unmanned vehicle technology after acquiring Otto in 2016. The story of buying a startup Otto took on a scandalous tinge when, at the end of 2017, Waymo (Google) sued Uberfor the theft of intellectual property. It turned out that the developer of Lewandowski, a former Waymo employee and founder of the Otto startup, before leaving the company copied over 14,000 confidential technical documents, drawings and other files to use them in the very Otto startup that Uber acquired almost immediately after its foundation. The situation is very unpleasant, because there is a possibility that Lewandowski stole files, quit Waymo and started a startup after he received a corresponding offer from Uber. That is, it was a kind of special operation. However, the final point in this story will put the court, which may continue for a long time.

    In October 2016, startup Otto held the first demonstrationunmanned cargo delivery technologies. Then Otto's robotic wagon made its first flight, delivering 50,000 cans of beer to Colorado Springs from the Budweiser plant. After leaving the car on the highway, the driver unbuckled his seat belt and went to the back of the cab, as he jokes, “to practice yoga.” The creators of Otto noted that, unlike the product of the same Tesla Motors, whose autopilot requires keeping hands on the steering wheel and being ready to take control, their development ensures autonomy of the 4th level. The fourth level of autopilot implies the full autonomy of the vehicle (for example, on the highway).

    Having obtained the necessary technology, Uber immediately put it into action, developed the first autopilot prototypes, and began testing unmanned cars and trucks. Trucking was seen as a natural application for autopilot technology due to the relative predictability of highways compared to busy city streets. In fact, driving a wagon along the route along an established route is a relatively easier task than planning a route through the streets of the megalopolis with traffic jams, intersections, traffic lights, pedestrians and cyclists.

    Earlier this year, Uber announced plans to integrate the traditional cargo transportation system with unmanned vehicles. It was planned that regular flights will be used for flights over short distances, and the autopilot - for longer ones.

    But now for some reason this project was decided to be abandoned. It must be said that in the development of autopilot working Uber is faced with competition from other companies from Silicon Valley, including Tesla and Alphabet (Waymo), as well as traditional automakers, including Ford and General Motors. Whoever can create a real autopilot system and, after legislative permission, will launch a commercial service on its basis, will receive a competitive advantage.

    Uber is now shifting employees from the direction of unmanned trucks to the more important direction of the development of passenger cars with autopilot.

    The freight system Uber Freight was launched in May 2017 and works along the lines of the usual Uber tax-service. It started from three regions, and is now deployed to the entire continental part of the United States.

    The Uber Advanced Technologies Group division will continue to keep in touch with truck manufacturers and will continue to explore autopilot opportunities on the highway. But specific tests in this area can continue only after the full autopilot is ready.

    After the scandal with the theft of intellectual property, Uber fired Lewandowski , but an engineer founded a new startup in this area, Kache.ai , who is also developing an autopilot for trucks.

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