Toy­ota to in­vest US$500mil in Uber for self-driv­ing cars

This comes as both com­pa­nies bid to catch up with ri­vals

The Star Malaysia - StarBiz - - Foreign News -

SAN FRANCISCo: Toy­ota Mo­tor Corp will in­vest US$500mil in Uber Tech­nolo­gies Inc to jointly work on de­vel­op­ing self-driv­ing cars, the com­pa­nies said, a bid by both to catch up to ri­vals in the hotly com­pet­i­tive au­ton­o­mous driv­ing busi­ness.

Toy­ota, one of the world’s largest car­mak­ers, and Uber, the lead­ing ride-hail­ing ser­vice, are widely seen as lag­ging the com­pe­ti­tion in de­vel­op­ing self-driv­ing cars.

Their deal deep­ens an ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ship and re­flects CEO Dara Khos­row­shahi’s strategy of Uber de­vel­op­ing au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles through part­ner­ships, rather than on its own.

The deal also breathes new life into Uber’s self-driv­ing busi­ness. Since a self-driv­ing Uber SUV killed a pedes­trian in Tempe, Ari­zona, in March, Uber has re­moved its ro­bot cars from the road, laid off hun­dreds of test driv­ers and shut­tered op­er­a­tions in Ari­zona, its au­ton­o­mous test­ing hub.

The in­vest­ment val­ues Uber at US$76bil, a step up from the US$72bil val­u­a­tion Uber re­ceived in a deal with Al­pha­bet Inc self-driv­ing unit Waymo this year.

Uber will com­bine its au­ton­o­mous driv­ing sys­tem with Toy­ota’s Guardian tech­nol­ogy, which of­fers au­to­mated safety fea­tures such as lane-keep­ing but does not en­able a ve­hi­cle to drive com­pletely au­tonomously.

The com­bined tech­nol­ogy will be built into Toy­ota’s Si­enna mini­vans, to be de­ployed on Uber’s ride-hail­ing net­work start­ing in 2021, Uber said.

The com­pa­nies’ aim is to solve the enor­mously chal­leng­ing prob­lem of how to mass pro­duce self-driv­ing cars for shared fleets, in­clud­ing ride-hail­ing ser­vices.

Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment for strate­gic ini­tia­tives, said the part­ner­ship “re­ally paints the pic­ture of how we en­vi­sion de­ploy­ing au­ton­o­mous tech­nol­ogy in the long term.” That in­cludes li­cens­ing its au­ton­o­mous tech­nol­ogy to car­mak­ers and en­list­ing a third party to own and main­tain the fleet.

The third party that will op­er­ate the Toy­ota au­ton­o­mous fleet has not yet been cho­sen, Miller said.

For the Ja­panese au­tomaker, the “agree­ment and in­vest­ment marks an im­por­tant mile­stone in our trans­for­ma­tion to a mo­bil­ity com­pany as we help pro­vide a path for safe and se­cure ex­pan­sion of mo­bil­ity ser­vices like ride-shar­ing that in­cludes Toy­ota ve­hi­cles and tech­nolo­gies,” its ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Shigeki To­moyama said in a state­ment.

Toy­ota has been less ag­gres­sive than some ri­vals on mov­ing to­ward full-fledged au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, ex­press­ing cau­tion about the tech­nol­ogy and fo­cus­ing on par­tial au­ton­o­mous sys­tems like Guardian. But it has in­vested in re­search and plans to be­gin test­ing self-driv­ing elec­tric cars around 2020. – Reuters

Fu­ture trend: Pi­lot mod­els of the Uber self-driv­ing car is dis­played at the Uber Ad­vanced Tech­nolo­gies Cen­ter in Pitts­burgh, Penn­syl­va­nia. Toy­ota will pump about US$500mil into Uber as part of a deal to work to­gether on mass-pro­duc­ing self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles. — AFP

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