While autonomous vehicles are still quite a ways off before they can be commonplace, Uber is changing their focus. Though they have not given up on developing autonomous cars, they announced this week they are hitting the brakes on self-driving commercial trucks.
According to Uber’s head of advanced technologies group, Eric Meyhofer, “We’ve decided to stop development on our self-driving truck program and move forward exclusively with cars.”
Meyhofer goes on to explain that the program—born out of Uber’s somewhat controversial multi-million-dollar acquisition of Otto, roughly two years ago—has become bogged down. As such, he comments, “We recently took the important step of returning to public roads in Pittsburgh, and 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.”
Now, it is important to note that the decision to stop developing autonomous commercial trucks will not affect Uber Freight. This is a business unit designed to help truck drivers to connect with shipping companies. Uber Freight launched only last year (in May 2017) is aimed at only vetted and approved drivers who can use it to locate nearby loads available for delivery as well as look at destination info, distance required for travel, and for payment options (so they can decide whether or not to book the job). The service initially launched in just three regions but is now available throughout the continental US, expanding quickly over the past 15 months.
In an email to employees, Meyhofer notes, “Rather than having two groups working side by side, focused on different vehicle platforms, I want us instead collaborating as one team. I know we’re all super proud of what the Trucks team has accomplished, and we continue to see the incredible promise of self-driving technology applied to move freight across the country. But we believe delivering on self-driving for passenger applications first, and then bringing it to freight applications down the line is the best path forward. For now, we need the focus of one team, with one clear objective.”