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Otto co-founder comes back to Uber to lead freight business

Uber app icon. Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Lior Ron, who co-founded Otto, the controversial self-driving truck company Uber acquired two years ago, is back after leaving in March to lead Uber Freight — which will now be a standalone unit and not include autonomous driving development.

Why it matters: Uber spent a year in court over Waymo's allegations that Ron and his co-founder plotted with Uber to steal its trade secrets. Now, Ron's return makes clear that Uber sees trucking as a huge business opportunity.

The deal: According to Uber, it never fully closed its acquisition of Otto's entities, which is why it's been renegotiating the deal behind the scenes for quite some time.

  • As Uber told Jalopnik last September, its acquisition of Otto's self-driving tech business (legally named "Ottomoto") closed in August 2016, but not that of its trucking business (legally named "Otto Trucking"), which is what's being renegotiated.
  • As part of the new terms, Otto Trucking shareholders will get a stake in Uber Freight.
  • Anthony Levandowski, Ron's co-founder who was at the center of the lawsuit from Waymo, will sell his shares of Otto Trucking to a venture capital firm, according to Bloomberg which first reported Ron's return, though an Uber spokesperson declined to share further details.