Uber Freight, Waabi Team Up on AI-Powered Autonomous Trucks
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Logistics specialist Uber Freight is teaming up with Waabi Innovation Inc. in an artificial intelligence-powered autonomous truck partnership, the companies said Sept. 21.
Toronto-based Waabi’s core technology — Waabi Driver — will be paired with Uber Freight’s logistics platform and marketplace technology to deliver a turnkey driver-as-a-service solution, the companies said.
Waabi Driver-enabled trucks have already been deployed on the Uber Freight network. The first commercial loads of the partnership hit the road on routes between Dallas and Houston earlier this week, the partners said. Those first runs will be followed by regular loads, they added.
Further down the line, commercial operations will expand to other key lanes in Texas and beyond, an expansion the partners said would take place quickly.
“Uber Freight has the scaled freight network and marketplace expertise needed to efficiently and safely deploy our AI-powered autonomous driving technology at scale,” said Waabi CEO Raquel Urtasun.
“This exciting partnership allows us to bring Waabi’s revolutionary generative AI innovation to the forefront of our vast freight network, providing our shippers and carriers nationwide with the tools needed to embrace autonomous technology and transform their operations safely and efficiently,” said Lior Ron, Uber Freight CEO.
The Waabi deal is the latest in a series of autonomous trucking partnerships for the Uber Technologies Inc. unit.
In December 2022, Uber Freight and Aurora Innovation Inc. extended an existing partnership. The two companies teamed up in Texas to haul freight between Dallas-Fort Worth and El Paso for packing solutions distributor Veritiv Corp.
Earlier in 2022, Uber Freight and Waymo Via unveiled a strategic partnership. The companies spoke in June 2022 of plans to integrate their products and collaborate on development of tools and infrastructure.
However, in July, Alphabet Inc. unit Waymo said it was slowing development of autonomous trucking at the Via unit. The company intends to focus more on ride-hailing, it said, although some work with Daimler Truck North America would continue.
Uber Technologies ceased its own autonomous truck development work when selling its Advanced Technologies Group to Aurora in early 2021. A few years before that, Uber ATG acquired self-driving truck startup Otto in 2016.
Aurora said in July a new round of funding of up to $820 million means it will have enough cash to launch its self-driving trucks in 2024.
The deal with Waabi is not Uber Freight’s only partnership in the AI space in recent weeks. In August, the company announced a deal with insurance software company Redkik, whose InsurTech software will be integrated into Uber Freight’s Shipper Platform. Insurance coverage will be available at the point of booking a shipment for transport, they said.
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Uber Freight, which was launched in 2017, is a growing force in the logistics sector.
In 2021, the company acquired Transplace, then owned by private equity firm TPG Capital, for $2.25 billion. The deal included up to $750 million in common stock of Uber Freight’s parent company.
Transplace ranked No. 13 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest logistics companies in North America at the time, while Uber Freight was ranked No. 41. Uber Freight now ranks No. 9 in the TT Top 100 for logistics companies.