Former Google Employees Start Otto Truck Automation Company
Company Focusing on Retrofitting Current Trucks with New Tech
As we’ve covered over the last several months, the trend of autonomous vehicles is coming quickly, whether you like it or not. Although most of the attention so far has been given to companies such as Tesla, General Motors, Audi, and BMW, some industry watchers believe the first vehicle class to see large-scale implementation and deployment of autonomous or semi-autonomous technology could be the Class-8 truck segment. Former Google employees Anthony Levandowski, who was involved with Google’s self-driving car program, and Lior Ron, who worked in the Google Maps and Motorola divisions, have founded Otto, a company dedicated to improving safety and technological innovation in the truck freight arena.
Unlike some other companies starting from the ground up with all-new truck designs, Otto is looking to develop technologies that can be retrofitted to trucks currently on the road. The company cites the current issues of road safety, a driver shortage, and under-utilization of available capacity, with as many as one in seven trucks on the road driving empty, as the rationale for starting the company. The near-term goals for the company are to make driving safer and allowing drivers to take rest breaks while on the road while the truck drives itself for a time. However, the cold, invisible hand of economics could prove too enticing for some fleets, which may push state and federal regulators to approve full automation, eliminating restrictions on driver hours, potential trade union strikes, and driver salaries and benefits, which can be as high as $80,000 or more a year for some companies.