Toyota Invests US$500m in Autonomous Uber Research

Just a day after the company announced that it would be focusing more on its electric scooter and bike business, Uber has revealed that it is about to receive an investment worth US$500m (£387m) from Toyota to expand the companies’ partnership to jointly develop self-driving cars.

The partnership is set to involve the mass-production of autonomous vehicles that would be deployed on Uber’s ride sharing network and industry sources have described the move as as a way for both firms to catch up with rivals such as Waymo in the ultra-competitive driverless car market.

Uber and Toyota have issued press releases that maintain that self-driving technology from each company will be integrated into purpose-built Toyota vehicles, primarily based on Toyota’s Sienna Minivan model featuring the Guardian safety support system and Mobility Services Platform, with pilot trials beginning in 2021. It’s a major step towards the companies’ autonomous-mobility as a service project, Autono-MaaS,  coming to fruition.

Executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corporation, Shigeki Tomoyama, said: “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.”

Following the much-publicised March’s fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona, when a pedestrian was run over and killed by one of its self-driving SUVs, Uber has scaled-back autonomous vehicle development, removed its autonomous cars from the road and closed its Arizona operation.