Lior Ron, the co-founder of the controversial self-driving technology company Otto, is returning to Uber to head up its trucking logistics company, Uber Freight, TechCrunch has confirmed.
Both Ron and his co-founder and ex-Googler Anthony Levandowski went to Uber after it acquired Otto in August of 2016. However, Levandowski was fired from Uber after pleading the Fifth Amendment to his accused involvement in stealing Google’s self-driving car trade secrets for use in Otto’s technology. Ron exited Uber a month after the company settled with Google parent company Alphabet for $245 million over the dispute.
Now, after some reportedly intense, month-long negotiations, Lior plans to return to Uber pending acquisition of Otto Trucking. The self-driving trucking company is a separate entity from Otto, and the deal to purchase Otto’s other units never fully closed, leading to continued negotiations.
Ron is an obvious pick to run Uber Freight as he helped “lay the groundwork” for the momentum the company has seen since its founding, according to Uber. He’s also managed to negotiate a deal with his employees in mind. The new deal would allow Uber Freight to be a standalone business within Uber and give Otto Trucking shareholders an equity stake in Uber Freight.
However, Levandowski will sell his shares in the freight company to an undisclosed VC firm, according to Bloomberg. Uber did not comment on which firm that might be. Meanwhile, Uber, which owns a majority stake in Freight, plans to double its investment in the company over the next year.