On Tuesday, Uber announced its ‘separate freight business’, which connects truckers with shippers, will be led by Lior Ron, a former employee who left the ride-services firm in March. During Ron’s absence, the company negotiated a deal allowing for his return that also gave Uber Freight more flexibility to make acquisitions or strategic investments.
Ron co-founded a self-driving trucking company, called Otto, which Uber acquired in 2016 and later became the centerpiece of a high-stakes lawsuit over the trade-secrets theft. Uber settled that lawsuit, brought by Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo, in February for $245 million.
The company said Freight was a key area of investment leading up to Uber’s initial public offering planned for next year. The U.S. trucking business is a $700-billion industry, but Uber is competing in a crowded and fragmented market.
Anthony Levandowski, who co-founded Otto with Ron and was at the center of Waymon’s trade-secrets theft allegations, also received equity in Freight. But Levandowski, who was fired from Uber last year, is selling his Freight shares to a venture capital firm, Uber said.
Levandowski did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During the case, he asserted his constitutional right against self-incrimination. As part of Uber’s reorganization, the co-founders and employees of Otto will receive an equity stake in Uber Freight, although Uber declined to provide details on the value of that equity or the number of employees receiving it. Ron and Levandowski both previously worked for Alphabet. Levandowski was not a defendant in the Waymo lawsuit but was accused of downloading confidential documents before leaving Waymo.
Uber said,“it will double its investment over the next year in Freight, a brokerage service set up in May 2017 for truck drivers and fleet managers looking for cargo to haul across the continental United States. It declined to provide a dollar amount but said Freight’s growth was promising. The business is doubling the number of loads it connects with truckers every quarter”.
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