Automotive giant Toyota announced Tuesday that it will invest $500 million in Uber to develop autonomous cars and face the competition.
This announcement consolidates an already existing relationship between the Japanese car manufacturer and the American company. It also reflects Toyota’s commitment to the autonomous car market.
The two companies want to combine Uber’s autonomous driving system with Toyota’s Guardian technology, which offers automated safety features such as trajectory maintenance. However, the system does not allow a vehicle to drive completely autonomously.
This combined technology will be integrated into the Sienna minivans, which will be deployed in the Uber network from 2021.
Toyota and Uber want to solve the problem of mass production of autonomous vehicles. This includes the licensing of standalone technology to automakers and the engagement of a third party to own and maintain the fleet, “said Jeff Miller, Uber’s Business Development Lead for Strategic Initiatives. The third party that will operate Toyota’s autonomous fleet has not yet been selected, Miller said.
The agreement also brings life back to Uber, which has removed its robotic vehicles from the road since one of its vehicles killed a pedestrian in Tempe.
On March 18 on an Arizona road, an autonomous Uber car fatally snapped up a pedestrian. After an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that the autonomous vehicle had detected the pedestrian nearly six seconds before the impact, but could not stop because the emergency braking system was not not activated.
Since then, the company has laid off hundreds of test drivers and terminated operations at its Arizona testing center.
Toyota has so far been cautious and less vigorous than its competitors in the field of autonomous cars. He focused on partially autonomous systems like Guardian. But the company has invested in research and said it plans to start testing autonomous electric cars by 2020.
Uber admitted that his technology is lagging behind, and the accident in Arizona was a blow.
The partnership with Toyota puts pressure on Uber to resume testing on public roads, but the company has run into regulators and politicians concerned about safety. Miller said Uber plans to put autonomous cars back on the road by the end of the year.
Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over Uber a year ago, recently explored options, including partnerships and even a potential sale of the company, Reuters learned. The self-driving unit is a major contributor to Uber’s losses, which amounted to $ 891 million in the second quarter.
Uber also has an agreement to buy Volvo cars, equip them with Uber technology and maintain them, a more labor-intensive project than Toyota’s plans. The company has also entered into a partnership with Daimler AG, which proposes to place its own autonomous vehicles in the Uber network.
Uber and Toyota have already been involved two years ago in an electric mobility project. Toyota then invested an undisclosed amount and the two companies were partners in a car rental program for Uber drivers.
Uber has since closed its leasing business in the United States.
Based in Mississauga, Frank Sinjat is a Senior Editor at Spruce Tribune. Previously he has worked for SprotsNet and the Hockey News. Frank is a graduate of Sports Recreation and Leisure at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. You can reach Fredrick via email or by phone