Lior Ron, co-founder of the autonomous-driving startup that triggered a massive legal battle between Uber and Waymo, is back at Uber. He'll head the company's Uber Freight logistics business, which Uber is looking to expand.
Ron and co-founder Anthony Levandowski created Otto after leaving Alphabet and sold the startup to Uber in August 2016. Levandowski was subsequently accused of stealing trade secrets from Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car unit and passing them on to Uber. He was fired for not cooperating with Uber's efforts to fight a lawsuit from Waymo. Ron left Uber earlier this year, a month after Uber settled the case for $245 million.
According to TechCrunch, Ron's return is contingent on Uber's purchase of Otto Trucking, a separate entity from the autonomous-driving division the company acquired in 2016. Uber Freight will then be spun off into a separate company, and Otto Trucking shareholders will get an equity stake in the new entity. Levandowski will reportedly sell his stake to an unnamed venture-capital firm.
Uber recently shut down its self-driving truck program, the most visible product of the 2016 Otto deal. Ron will instead focus on conventional trucking, which Uber views as an important area of investment leading up a planned initial public offering next year, reports Reuters. The news service reports that Uber will double its investment in Freight over the next year.
Uber Freight currently operates as a brokerage service, connecting shipments with drivers willing to haul them anywhere in the continental United States. Drivers can schedule a load through an app, similar to how ride-hailing drivers schedule passengers. Uber claims the logistics division is doubling the number of shipments every quarter.