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Uber’s Trucking Aspirations Are Not Taking Off As Hoped

Uber Technologies has more than a cultural problem on its hands; its efforts to expand into trucking isn’t doing so hot.

That’s according to a report in Fortune that cited analysts and industry executives who are increasingly questioning the ride hailing company’s efforts in the $700-billion industry. According to the report, Uber wants to bring self-driving trucks and smartphone-based logistics to the market, but what has happened so far is modest at best.  The report noted that its self-driving aspirations in the trucking industry are being hurt by a lawsuit over trade secrets related to its purchase of truck startup Otto last year. Uber paid $680 million for the startup but has been embroiled in litigation ever since. The report noted that testing of self-driving trucks has been slowed down and that a lot of the engineers inherited when Uber acquired Otto have been placed in its cargo business.  As for Uber Freight, which was rolled out in May, the report noted it looks similar to the services that it is trying to displace. For instance Uber Freight uses conventional call centers and Internet-based boards, which truckers have been using for years to find work. “The world doesn’t need another broker,” said Eric Gilmore, chief executive of Turvo, a Sunnyvale, Calif., logistics startup that’s trying to wring paperwork out of the shipping process. in the report.

Also hurting its effort are problems at the management level at Uber, with CEO Travis Kalanick announcing that he is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the company. According to the Wall Street Journal, the move comes amid intense scrutiny over Uber’s workplace culture. Kalanick is also grieving the death of his mother, who was killed last month in a boating accident that also left his father seriously injured. He announced his leave in an email to all Uber staff, explaining that he would step aside to allow for direct reports to run the ridesharing company and that he will step in for major strategic decisions. The leave is necessary, the Uber CEO said, “to become the leader that this company needs.”

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