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Prime Mover Magazine

Uber shelves self-driving trucks

Uber has put the brakes on its plans to roll out driverless heavy vehicles.

The global ride sharing company announced today that it would shelve its plans to provide a service for commercially viable vehicles as it continues to pursue bringing autonomous cars to market.

The decision comes less than two years on from its $US680 million purchase of Otto, the start-up self-driving truck project co-founded by Anthony Levandowski. Otto had been the brainchild of co-founder Anthony Levandowski, who had left Google’s autonomous car project, and was developed later by Waymo.

At Uber Levandowski was in charge of its self-driving car program. Waymo claimed its LIDAR technology, which provides continuous depth-scans of the area surrounding a vehicle, by optimising conventional camera inputs, was used by Levandowski at Otto and Uber, and filed a court action.

Although the case never reached trial, Uber eventually fired Levandowski.

Despite it completing a 193 kilometre autonomous delivery in October 2016, Otto has all but been discontinued since its remaining three founders Don Burnette, Lior Ron and Claire Delaunay, left the project in April.

In March an Uber self-driving SUV killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona leading the company to temporarily shutdown all testing for its prototype driverless vehicles.

“We recently took the important step of returning to public roads in Pittsburgh,” Eric Meyhofer, Head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group said in a statement. “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.”

The decision to pause its autonomous truck program won’t affect Uber Freight, a booking service available throughout the United States in which owner operators can deliver goods on behalf of third parties.

Uber Freight has yet to launch in the Australian market where Sydney-based start-up ecoloads is currently one of the major players.

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