Uber buys self-driving truck startup Otto; teams with Volvo
By Bernie Woodall
(Reuters) - Ride service Uber Technologies Inc said on Thursday it acquired self-driving trucks startup Otto and formed a $300 million alliance with Volvo Car Group to develop self-driving cars.
Uber's moves reflect its eagerness to advance self-driving technology. If its ambitions are realized, these vehicles could over time reduce its biggest cost, paying drivers.
Uber would also be positioned to expand into the trucking industry, which had revenue of about $726.4 billion in the United States in 2015, according to trade data.
Carpooling firms have formed alliances with large automakers, such as General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) and ride-hailing service Lyft, to accelerate those efforts, which depend on software and hardware working together to give a vehicle the right reflexes in traffic.
"Partnership is crucial to our self-driving strategy because Uber has no experience making cars," Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick wrote in a blogpost.
"To do it well is incredibly hard, as I realized on my first visit to a car manufacturing plant several years ago."
Uber, which has a research center in Pittsburgh, will by the end of this month begin a pilot program in which trusted Uber customers will be able to use their phones to summon a self-driving car for use in a downtown Pittsburgh, according to a source with knowledge of Uber's plans.
It will be the first time members of the public will be able to use self-driving vehicles. A driver trained to handle the autonomous cars will be behind the wheel to step in if needed. Continued...