Otto, winner of the hot new startup award at the 10th Annual Crunchies Awards, had a whirlwind year. The company came out of stealth in May 2016, revealing its plan to develop self-driving technology for semi-trucks.
In August Uber purchased the company and all-star team to help expand its autonomous efforts. Then in October an Otto-powered truck made its first delivery, hauling 50,000 Budweiser cans from Fort Collins, Colo., to Colorado Springs.
The company was co-founded by former Google engineers. Anthony Levandowski and Don Burnette worked on Google’s self-driving effort. Lior Ron was head of product at Google Maps and Clair Delaunay worked as a robotics program lead.
Other engineers at Otto have worked at Tesla, Apple and Google. According to Bloomberg, Uber doesn’t want to dismantle this team of 91 employees, so Levandowski will lead Uber’s self-driving project, and the existing Otto office in San Francisco will become an Uber R&D center.
Otto focuses on self-driving technology that could be fitted into trucks that are already on the road now. In other words, Otto doesn’t want to develop its own self-driving vehicles — the startup chose to focus on some sort of self-driving kit instead. Otto makes its own LIDAR sensors.
This fits perfectly into Uber’s strategy as the company doesn’t want to become a car manufacturer. Instead, Uber has been looking at partnerships with existing car manufacturers, such as Volvo, in order to turn their cars into self-driving cars using Uber’s proprietary technology. So get ready for Uber’s self-driving kit.
Otto previously announced that it intends for its technology to enter the long-haul freight business in 2017 and if its 2016 is any indication, the company has the velocity to do much more.