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Uber does not give up on its goal of developing autonomous vehicles. And now it will have Toyota as a partner in that purpose.
After a fatal accident last March in Arizona, where an autonomous SUV of Uber killed a pedestrian, the shared transport company suspended its tests with this type of vehicle and closed its operations in that state.
However, according to Dave Lee, a BBC technology reporter, for Toyota represents an excellent opportunity the agreement that will help Uber with the problems it has had with the development of its autonomous cars.
Thus, the Japanese automaker will invest US $ 500 million in Uber and will expand its partnership to jointly develop autonomous vehicles.
What is the alliance?
Toyota said that this would involve the “mass production” of autonomous vehicles that would be deployed in Uber’s shared transportation network.
This move is perceived as a way for both companies to catch up with their rivals in the competitive market.
In the agreement, Uber was valued at US $ 72,000 million, despite its growing losses . That’s up 15% since its last investment in May, but coincides with a valuation made in February.
According to a press release issued by the two companies, the autonomous driving technology will be integrated into Toyota vehicles specially designed for this project.
The fleet will be based on Toyota’s Sienna model, with pilot tests starting in 2021.
Shigeki Tomoyama, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “This agreement and the investment mark an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company , because we will provide a path for a secure expansion of mobility services, such as shared use” .
Both Toyota and Uber are seen as laggards in the development of autonomous vehicles. Waymo, owned by Alphabet, leads.
The future of Uber
The agreement extends an existing relationship with Toyota and promotes Uber’s strategy of developing autonomous driving technology through partnerships with automakers.
For example, the US firm also partnered with Daimler, which expects to have and operate its own autonomous vehicles on the Uber network.
Last Monday, Uber said he planned to focus more on the bicycle business and his electric scooter, and less on cars, although it could hurt his income.
In fact, although revenues from their taxi business are increasing , the costs of expanding to new areas, such as bicycle sharing and home delivery, have meant losses that have grown rapidly.
Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco
Earlier this month it was reported that Uber was investing between US $ 1 and US $ 2 million daily in its work in autonomous vehicles. The results of that effort have not been to be proud: a fatal shock, a very expensive demand and little autonomous driving compared to the leader in this sector, Waymo.
Sharing the burden and the cost of research and development will delight Uber investors as it aims for its initial public offering next year.
Meanwhile, Toyota’s stock skyrocketed after reports of the deal came out.
It is not surprising. Many analysts think that the personal property of automobiles will be drastically reduced when the future of autonomous driving and carpooling arrives, in addition to the fact that large companies will buy huge fleets of vehicles.
Toyota, then, may have secured its largest customer of all time.