Autonomous driving: Uber acquires Otto and strikes deal with Volvo

Autonomous driving: Uber acquires Otto and strikes deal with Volvo

Business news |
By Julien Happich

Otto’s co-founder Anthony Levandowski will lead Uber and Otto’s combined self-driving efforts across personal transportation, delivery and trucking. The dream team, as the CEO describes it, gathers “one of the strongest autonomous engineering groups in the world; 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”.

Bloomberg reports that the 91-employee driverless truck startup founded early 2016 includes ex-engineers from Google, Apple, and Tesla, all racing to make autonomous driving a commodity. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The CEO looks at the Otto acquisition as a natural step toward the delivery of self-driving technology that it could license to car manufacturers. Something that complements Uber’s partnership with Swedish car maker Volvo also announced in the same blog.

“Volvo has consistently been a leader when it comes to safety. And partnership is crucial to our self-driving strategy because Uber has no experience making cars. To do it well is incredibly hard, as I realized on my first visit to a car manufacturing plant several years ago. By combining Uber’s self-driving technology with Volvo’s state-of-the art vehicles and safety technology, we’ll get to the future faster than going it alone” he wrote.

Within the next few weeks, the Swedish company is to ship Uber the world’s first fleet of autonomous taxis. This is part of a partnership deal the two companies struck, investing together USD 300m to develop a self-driving vehicle.

Uber customers in Pittsburgh will soon be able to hail the first self-driving test vehicles, the Volvo XC90s, from their smartphones.

The Volvo XC90s soon on Pittsburgh’s roads.

Drivers will remain behind the wheel during the pilot, which will be free for passengers. Volvo’s CEO Hakan Samuelsson expects this move to be the first step in a long-term industrial partnership, with smart maps development being another possible area of co-operation between the two companies.

By smart maps, the CEO may be hinting not only at real-time adaptive maps that take into account newly detected obstacles, but also featuring predictive customer demand for optimized fleet availability.

Big data analysis will play a role, and with the newly equipped cars, Uber hopes to collect as much data from its app, logging millions of miles and billions of data points per day to improve its self-driving mapping and navigation systems.

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