Uber Acquires Otto, Moves Forward Self-Driving Car Plans

By Alex Batty, MHI Marketing Communications Coordinator |@mhi_alex

Uber recently announced that it has acquired Otto for approximately $680 million. The plan is that all of Otto’s team will move under Uber’s umbrella and continue to develop the self-driving technology the company is working on.

Part of the original beauty of Uber was that it relied on existing technology, like smartphones and cars, and made it easy to build a network using everyday people. However, for long term growth, Uber is starting to focus on original research to develop new technologies and systems to help them go farther.

After raising money from investors, they are working an extensive mapping project to reduce their reliance on Google Maps. It’s also expected to shore up Google Maps’ weaknesses in developing countries, where Google Maps tends to be less accurate and Uber wants to expand business. At the moment, Uber has to have drivers call pick-ups for a correct location in many non-Western countries.

Uber also recently acquired Otto, a company that is developing self-driving trucks. Rather than creating entire vehicles that are self-guided, Otto is currently focusing on creating self-driving kits that could be attached to diverse vehicles, a perfect match for the bring-your-own-car program of Uber. Eventually, computers could replace drivers, but Uber could purchase small, cost-effective vehicles to keep their overhead low, rather than custom building vehicles for self-driving technology. While Uber and Volvo are moving quickly to start testing self-driving vehicles in Pittsburg, Otto’s lidar technology could be a huge boost for the company.

Where ever they decide to take the technology, it looks like the industry is well on its way to becoming mainstream. The cool thing about material handling, however, is that we’ve been doing autonomous vehicles for quite a while now. ProMat 2017, held April 3-6 at McCormick Place in Chicago, will even feature a Solutions Center on Autonomous Vehicles. Check out ProMatShow.com today to learn more and register.