Toyota and Uber have strengthened their strategic partnership, with the Japanese giant making a significant investment as part of its continuing plans to conquer the self-driving car market, and Uber looking to reclaim its safety reputation.
Toyota is set to invest $500m in Uber projects. The Japanese carmaker and the US ride-hailing service are pooling their respective technologies with a view to developing self-driving cars, as reported by Le Monde.
An initial fleet of 100 cars is already in the pipeline, with deployment set to begin in 2021, as Toyota confirmed in a press release. The Japanese manufacturer invested an undisclosed sum in Uber through its subsidiary Toyota Financial Services in 2016. In the words of Toyota’s executive vice-president Shigeki Tomoyama, “the agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company”.
Competition for Silicon Valley’s frontrunners
Toyota is looking to be more than a car manufacturer, hence its plans to become a service supplier. With the car industry undergoing a technological revolution, the Japanese firm has entered into a series of partnerships and has been investing heavily in the autonomous car market in a bid to compete with Silicon Valley’s leading lights. Among its attributes is its robotics expertise.
“Following a rather tricky start, Toyota is stepping up its commitment to autonomous technology,” said Hans Greimel, the Japan correspondent for Automotive News. “They are reorganising their entire supply chain,” he added, in reference to a joint venture founded in late August by four companies affiliated to Toyota, among them Aisin Seiki and Denso.
The strategic importance of safety
The deal with Toyota – a company renowned for the safety of its cars – is something of a godsend for Uber, whose reputation was tarnished by the fatal accident involving one of its self-driving cars in Arizona in March. “It shows our commitment to bringing cutting-edge technologies to the Uber network and to deploying the safest self-driving cars in the world,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of a group now valued at €72bn.
As part of scheduled testing to be conducted by Uber in Pennsylvania, self-driving cars will be equipped with a driver surveillance system to ensure that operators remain attentive behind the wheel. Following a break lasting several months, the US firm has resumed testing on public roads. It is now focusing its efforts solely on driverless cars, having given up its self-driving truck programme, a division that was running at a loss, as reported by The Information.
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