As Uber ramps up its driverless car operations in Pittsburgh, it will have some help from several ex-Googlers who have already mastered the technology.
According to a report from Max Chafkin at Bloomberg, Uber has purchased Otto, the self-driving truck startup founded by Anthony Levandowski and Lior Ron, both former high-level Google employees.
Levandowski will now take over Uber’s entire self-driving car operations and Uber plans to open two more R&D offices: one in Palo Alto and another in Otto’s offices in San Francisco, Bloomberg reports.
Otto is only a 6-month-old startup, but it already has four trucks on the road 24/7 and is sprinting toward what Ron described to Business Insider as the not-so-distant future of self-driving semis, where existing trucks can install one of Otto’s $30,000 kits to produce autonomous driving capabilities.
“There’s more and more demand for truck drivers to drive more with less time,” Ron says. “We’re living in an on-demand era where we all want to press a button and have something arrive as fast as possible. Well, there’s a truck behind all of those products.”
Business Insider recently got a look inside Otto’s cavernous headquarters to see where the innovation is cracking. Check it out:
The space actually used to be a truck depot, but the most recent tenant before Otto used it to store massive amounts of furniture.
(We'll see a bit more of that later, once we're deeper inside the building. Apparently, the former tenants didn't do a very thorough job moving out.)
But now that Otto has moved in, employees and visitors are greeted by one of the four massive trucks, unless they're all out on the road.
Some of Otto's autonomous guts are tucked under the truck's hood, but you can peep the cameras, radar equipment, and Lidar sensors on the outside.
Ron used to be the product lead for Google Maps, and cofounder Anthony Levandowski was a technical lead for Google's self-driving car. The two other cofounders are Don Burnette and Claire Delaunay.