Uber has acquired Otto, a 90-plus person technology startup whose mission is to rethink transportation, starting with self-driving trucks. Anthony Levandowski, Otto's co-founder, will now lead the combined self-driving efforts reporting directly to Travis Kalanick, CEO and Co-Founder of Uber—across personal transportation, delivery and trucking—in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Pittsburgh.
Kalanick says that in order to provide digital services in the physical world, we must build sophisticated logistics, artificial intelligence and robotics systems that serve and elevate humanity.
When it comes to this advanced technology stack, he feels that Otto plus Uber is a dream team. Anthony is one of the world's leading autonomous engineers: his first invention, a self-driving motorcycle called Ghostrider, is now in the Smithsonian. Just as important, Anthony is a prolific entrepreneur with a real sense of urgency.
Together, we now have a strong autonomous engineering group; self-driving trucks and cars that are already on the road thanks to Otto and Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh; the practical experience that comes from running ridesharing and delivery services in hundreds of cities; with the data and intelligence that comes from doing 1.2 billion miles on the road every month.
In the last six years Uber has seen the profound impact that smartphone technology has had on transportation, as well as the delivery business. When people can push a button and reliably get an affordable ride across town, things change for the better—and quickly. Ridesharing helps cut drunk driving. It complements public transit, getting people to places that other means of transportation don't reach, replacing the need to own a car over time. Most important of all, the smartphone has made mass carpooling a reality.
Uber's partnership with Swedish car maker Volvo, has also been announced. Volvo has consistently been a leader when it comes to safety and partnership is crucial to Uber's self-driving strategy because Uber has no experience making cars. By combining Uber's self-driving technology with Volvo's state-of-the art vehicles and safety technology, Uber will get to the future faster than going it alone according to Kalanick. The two companies hope to to develop a fully autonomous car that will be ready for the road by 2021.
Later this month, Uber customers in downtown Pittsburgh will be able to summon self-driving cars from their phones. Uber's Pittsburgh fleet consists of specially modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles that house dozens of sensors that use cameras, lasers, radar, and GPS receivers and they will be supervised by humans in the driver's seat initially.
Source and top image: Uber
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