When Uber announced that week that it acquired Otto, a 90-plus person technology startup whose mission is to rethink transportation, starting with self-driving trucks, the question was raised, by Bloomberg, as to whether this technology will eventually be used to start a cargo service for long-haul trucking.
“It’s not clear if Uber plans to compete with package delivery firms like UPS and FedEx,” reported verge.com, “but it’s easy to see how that sort of program could complement the company’s other offerings.”
In announcing the deal, Otto said, "By joining forces with Uber we can fast forward to the future. Together, Otto and Uber can build the backbone of the rapidly-approaching self-driving freight system. We can help make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone, whether you’re talking people or packages."
Otto, which was founded earlier this year by former employees from Google, Apple, Tesla, Cruise Automation, and others, had a goal of turning commercial trucks into self-driving freight haulers.
The company said that its platform is designed to allow truck drivers to rest while the truck is still moving as well as creating a freight network to link drivers and shippers in a way that is financially beneficial for everyone, as reported by verge.com
Uber’s CEO and Co-Founder, Travis Kalanick, said that combining Otto with his company’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh will create the “strongest autonomous engineering groups in the world.” And he points to 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.”
Kalanick also pointed to the social and environmental benefits of the new technology.
In the last six years we’ve 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. By getting more people into fewer cars, we can reduce congestion and pollution in our cities.
Of course, this is just the start, especially when it comes to safety. Over one million people die on the world’s roads every year and 90% of these accidents are due to human error. In the US, traffic accidents are a leading cause of death for people under 25. This is a tragedy that self-driving technology can help solve.