Uber acquires Otto, founded less than a year ago, for $680 million
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Photo credit: Otto / YouTube

Photo credit: Otto / YouTube

The deal will enable Uber to move rapidly towards becoming an autonomous vehicle powerhouse

Otto, founded in early 2016, is on its way to being acquired by Uber for $680 million. Signing of the deal is scheduled within two weeks, following a week awash with significant announcements in the auto technology industry about autonomous vehicles.

Anyone questioning how close we are to an era in which cars, buses, and trucks will drive themselves heard in recent days about a series of concrete steps that have been taken in the last several months. For Otto, this exit is coming very early. The company, founded only eight months ago, has 90 employees, and the price for its acquisition amounts to about 1% of the value of Uber itself.

Otto noticed a real need, and acted quickly

In recent years, for a wide variety of reasons, the United States has faced a gaping shortage of truck drivers, with growing demand for rapid, land-based transportation of goods. Otto, which noticed this need, combined it with one of the hottest trends in the current global technology market – autonomous vehicles. At a time when the auto industry is busy designing an autonomous vehicle from scratch for the private market, Otto, operating in a completely different sphere, has developed systems that can turn existing trucks into autonomous ones, obviating the need for human beings on the one hand, and appealing to the auto industry in general on the other.

Former Alphabet (a holding company owned by Google, R.L.) executive Lior Ron, Anthony Levandowski, who worked on Google’s autonomous vehicle project, and Claire Delaunay and Don Burnette  two other ex-Google employees — founded Otto. The two executives who left Google headquarters in Mountain View have eagerly recruited senior employees from Apple Computers, Tesla, and Google.

Three months ago, the company garnered quite a few headlines when a truck using its development kit completed an entire journey on one of California’s high-speed motorways.

The autonomous vehicle revolution is closer than you thought

The giant Otto deal comes during a week in which Ford announced that it would launch an autonomous car for the private market within five years and Uber declared that it would offer services from driverless taxis for residents of Pittsburgh within two weeks. At the same time, there is not a single major auto manufacturer that is not working on the development of its own autonomous car, while in the auto technology industry, coalitions of companies are beginning to form that should be able to charge ahead towards a world without human drivers.

While Google, Apple, Tesla, and Uber are preparing for intensive competition in a field projected to mature within a few years, it appears that large-scale deals involving the development of an autonomous vehicle are only just getting started. 

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Roy Latke

About Roy Latke


Technology geek with a touch of apple, with a bit taken out of it. Living and breathing technology with a measured obsession. Criminologist by training, fighting crime and the establishment simultaneously. Enjoys writing, reading and examining thoroughly everything that can be disassembled; from tech devices to the human mind. Editor at Geektime.

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