Uber hasn’t given up on developing self-driving cars. But on Monday, the company announced it had put the brakes on autonomous commercial trucks.
“We’ve decided to stop development on our self-driving truck program and move forward exclusively with cars,” said Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber’s advanced technologies group in a statement on Monday.
The change, which was first reported by TechCrunch, doesn’t spell a definitive end to Uber’s truck research. But the company has been forced to rethink its self-driving car efforts following a fatal crash back in March that involved an Uber autonomous SUV colliding into a 49-year-old woman.
Uber is now trying to revive its autonomous vehicle research. Last week, the company’s test cars began returning to the streets in Pittsburgh, following a four-month company-imposed suspension.
For now, the vehicles in Pittsburg are being driven in manual mode, but Uber’s Meyhofer still called this a sign of “momentum.” As a result, the company has decided to reallocate its self-driving car efforts to focus solely on consumer vehicles. “We believe having our entire team’s energy and expertise focused on this effort is the best path forward,” Meyhofer said in his statement.
Uber’s self-driving truck effort began in 2016 when the company bought Otto, a startup that was co-founded by a former Google employee named Anthony Levandowski. The technology was advanced enough to self-drive a truck 120 miles on a highway to deliver a shipment of Budweiser beer.
However, Uber’s acquisition of Otto was later mired in controversy. Waymo, a spin-off of Google’s self-driving car research, decided to sue Uber in 2017. It claimed that Levandowski had stolen trade secrets from Google, and supplied them to his new employer, Uber.
In response, Uber fired Levandowski and later struck a $245 million settlement with Waymo to end the lawsuit.
In the commercial truck space, Uber still has its Freight program, which matches trucking providers with suppliers. As a result, Uber believes it doesn’t need to immediately develop self-driving trucks to remain competitive in the logistics space, a company spokeswoman said.