Travis Kalanick sure had a busy weekend. After hanging out with Tom Brady at the Kentucky Derby, the embattled Uber CEO made a pit stop in Pittsburgh, where he snapped this photo of a very large truck with the words “Uber Freight” stenciled on the side.
As you’ll recall, Uber has been planning to launch a long-haul trucking venture since acquiring Otto, the self-driving truck startup, for $650 million in the middle of 2016. The nature of that acquisition is now the centerpiece in a bitter legal dispute with Waymo, the self-driving car division of Google parent Alphabet. Waymo alleges that Otto was a shell company meant to deliver stolen technology by Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer who founded the startup.
Otto completed its first shipment via self-driving truck last October, when it delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer from Loveland, Colorado, to Colorado Springs. But the startup’s five big rigs haven’t made any more shipments since then — at least not any that Uber has sought to publicize. In February, Car and Driver reported that Otto’s self-driving trucks were operating on public highways in California without a permit.
Despite all that drama, Uber Freight is apparently still happening. In an interview with Business Insider last year, Kalanick said it was always Uber’s intention to get into trucking. “It is a challenging, interesting, nuanced business, and it is going to be intense getting into it, but that’s exciting to me,” Kalanick said.
To start out, Uber Freight was intended to act much like Uber’s app, connecting a shipper with a truck. Now it appears it will actually include its own fleet of semis, which can be a costly venture when you factor in maintenance, fuel prices, and insurance. We’ve reached out to Uber for more details and we’ll update this piece when we hear back.
(My own question: what’s with the bales of hay and the sign for Dallas-based Eddie Deen’s Ranch in Kalanick’s photo? Maybe they’re filming an ad?)