On Thursday, the $69 billion ride-hailing giant officially launched Uber Freight, its new network for helping truck drivers find loads easier and pay them faster.
Given the number of startups already vying to be the solution, it's not a new idea to revolutionize the trucking industry. But Uber is a well-financed behemoth entering the $700 billion trucking industry that experts predict may give it the advantage over the other upstarts — and it has an ulterior motive as well.
The plan builds on Uber's acquisition of Otto, a self-driving trucking company that Uber bought in July for $650 million. (That same company is also the target of a massive lawsuit brought by Waymo that could impair Uber's future self-driving car efforts).
At the time, Otto's main focus was to build self-driving truck kits that equipment manufacturers or freight networks could buy and install on their own, but it also secretly harbored a desire to build its own "Uber for trucking" marketplace.
"Even if you look pre-acquisition, Otto was always about reinventing transportation," Eric Berdinis, the product lead on Uber Freight, told Business Insider in October when Uber first started teasing the launch. "Even though we started with the announcement of the self-driving trucks, we were always intending to build a marketplace that would allow self-driving trucks to flourish."
For now, Uber Freight is limited to trucks that are driven by humans that are vetted by the company to be certified to drive the different kind of trucking loads on the platform — some which may require refrigeration or special equipment. It's also starting small just operating in Texas between Houston, Dallas, and Austin, according to Wired.
Amid concerns that Uber's self-driving trucks have vanished from the road, the launch of Uber Freight shows it hasn't abandoned its push into trucking wholeheartedly.