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Toyota and Uber in $500m deal to develop driverless cars

Tim Maytom
Dara Khosrowshahi (left), Uber CEO, and Shigeki Tomoyama, executive vice president, Toyota Motor Corporation and president, Toyota Connected Company

Japanese automotive brand Toyota is set to expand its partnership with ride hailing platform Uber, investing $500m (£387m) in the company as part of its efforts to develop self-driving cars.

The two firms will collaborate on the mass production of autonomous vehicles that will be deployed as part of Uber's network of cars, in a move that industry analysts have called an attempt to catch up with other rivals in the growing driverless car market.

"Combining efforts with Uber, one of the predominant global ride sharing and automated driving R&&D companies, could further advance future mobility," said Shigeki Tomoyama, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) and president of Toyota Connected Company. "This 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."

The partnership will see technology from each company integrated into purpose-built Toyota vehicles which will form part of Uber's network, owned nad operated by mutually agreed upon third-party autonomous fleet opertors.

"The deal is the first of its kind for Uber, and signals our commitment to bringing world-class technologies to the Uber network," said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber. "Our goal is to deploy the world's safest self-driving cars on the Uber network, and this agreement is another significant step towards making that a reality.

"Uber's advanced technology and Toyota's commitment to safety and its renowned manufacturing prowess make this partnership a natural fit. I look forward to seeing what our teams accomplish together."

Uber has had a tumultuous 12 months following the departure of its co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick. The firm recently shuttered its self-driving trucks division, and has been seeking partnerships in a number of areas with rival ride hailing firms such as Lyft, Grab and Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car division. The partnership with Toyota will strengthen its solo efforts in the face of increasing competition.

"Uber's automated driving system and Toyota's Guardian system will independently monitor the vehicle environment and real-time situation, enhancing overall vehicle safety for both the automated driver and the vehicle," said Dr Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute and TMC Fellow. "We look forward to this partnership accelerating both companies' development and deployment of automated driving technology."

The initial fleet will be based on Toyota's Sienna Minivan platform, and also utilise Toyota's Mobility Services Platform, its core information infrastructure for connected vehciles. A pilot-scale deployment is expected in 2021.

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