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Uber discontinues its self-driving truck program

Ride-hailing startup plans to refocus on self-driving car effort.

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Uber is shutting down its self-driving trucks program.

Uber/Gregory Murphy

Uber has put the brakes on its self-driving truck program, saying Monday it would concentrate on building its own self-driving car technology.

"We recently took the important step of returning to public roads in Pittsburgh, and as we look to continue that momentum, we believe having our entire team's energy and expertise focused on this effort is the best path forward," Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said in a statement.

Uber is mostly known for its ride-hailing service, which matches passengers with drivers through a smartphone app. But over the last three years, it's ventured into driverless vehicles.

Uber's self-driving trucks plan was to have several transfer hubs around the county that would connect automated long-haul routes with drivers specializing in local hauls. The company had tested the trucks in Arizona and had begun to use its autonomous truck fleet to move freight across the state for multiple customers.

The effort was born out of Uber's purchase in 2016 of Otto, a self-driving truck company founded by former Google star engineer Anthony Levandowski. But the acquisition led the startup to a legal battle with Waymo, Google's self-driving car effort, which accused Levandowski of stealing 14,000 "highly confidential" files before he left the company.

In February, on the fourth day of a closely watched trial, the two announced a surprise settlement in which Uber would pay Waymo about $245 million. Waymo had sought $1.8 billion in damages.

Uber ran into more trouble the next month when one of Uber's self-driving cars was involved in a fatal accident in Arizona involving a pedestrian, prompting the state's governor to suspend Uber's ability to test the cars on state roads.

The decision doesn't affect Uber Freight, an app platform similar to its ride-hailing app that lets trucking companies and their drivers connect with shippers. This app is already being used in the trucking industry around the US, and Uber's autonomous semis will be available on this platform.

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