New reports have emerged that say that Uber has purchased a self-driving semi startup called Otto which was founded by ex-Google employees.

Otto To Create Retrofit Kits For Existing Trucks

Otto’s basic plan is not to manufacture self-driving trucks but instead to create retrofit kits that can be bolted onto existing trucks to make them autonomous. The self-driving technology would only be used for highway driving; a human would be required to take the wheel for more complicated city driving. The technology is currently being tested on public roads in San Francisco.

According to the report, the deal was made in July and though the terms have not been disclosed, Bloomberg estimates that Uber paid around $680 million for the startup.

Deal Spawns Lofty Rhetoric, But Few Details

Though Uber has not disclosed detailed plans for entering into the freight industry, a blog post from Otto revealed some lofty (if vague) plans to use autonomous driving technology to revolutionize trucking and transportation: “By joining forces with Uber we can fast forward to the future. Together, Otto and Uber can build the backbone of the rapidly-approaching self-driving freight system. We can help make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone, whether you’re talking people or packages.”

Uber’s blog post on the deal echoed Otto’s expansive tones but was short on details as to exactly how Uber plans to use the self-driving trucks: “If that sounds like a big deal—well, it is. More and more the world of atoms is interacting with bits. In order to provide digital services in the physical world, we must build sophisticated logistics, artificial intelligence and robotics systems that serve and elevate humanity.

Uber also announced a $300 million partnership with Volvo to put self-driving cars on the road by 2021, though they have plans to begin testing autonomous Volvos in Pittsburg this month.

Sources:
Engadget
The Silicon Valley Business Journal
Fortune

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