Toyota to invest about $500 million in Uber for driverless cars

2018 Toyota Sienna

Instead of owning and operating the vehicles, they will be handed over to a mutually-agreed upon third party.

"This agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company", Shigeki Tomoyama, the president of Toyota Connected Company, said in a statement.

A person briefed on the matter says Toyota will invest $500 million in ride-hailing service Uber, and the companies will jointly develop self-driving vehicles. The fact remains that Toyota itself is being seen as a bit lagging in the progress made on the development of autonomous technology though it has a research division dedicated to it.

Toyota shares were nearly 2% higher in Tokyo trading on Tuesday while analysts said the size of Toyota's investment in Uber valued the California-based company at $72bn (£55.8bn). Toyota invested in Uber in 2016 alongside an auto-leasing deal. 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.

San Francisco-based Uber did not respond to a request for comment.

Toyota and Uber logos
Toyota and Uber logos

The pair aim to begin pilot-scale deployments of the autonomous vehicles on Uber's ride-sharing network in 2021.

Previous reports indicated that Uber executives have been debating the future of the company's autonomous vehicle unit.

Toyota has clarified that its Guardian technology is not a 100% autonomous vehicle technology and its research to launch a completely self-driven vehicle is going on and it has set itself a target of launching the vehicles commercially by 2020. It is possible that this service may start by the end of this calendar year. "Uber's advanced technology and Toyota's commitment to safety, and its renowned manufacturing prowess make this partnership a natural fit", he said.

Uber's expansion into self-driving cars suffered another setback a year ago after Waymo accused it of stealing its technology in an elaborate scheme. The Toyota partnership puts pressure on Uber to resume testing on public roads, but the company has run up against regulators and politicians with safety concerns.

Previously, Uber and Toyota partnered on an electric mobility project.

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