Toyota teams with Uber to develop driver-less vehicles

Toyota teams with Uber to develop driver-less vehicles

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Toyota Motor Corp will invest about $500 million in Uber Technologies to jointly work on developing driver-less vehicles, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Toyota will invest $500 million in Uber in a deal that values the ride-hail giant at $72 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. As part of the agreement, the two companies will work jointly on developing self-driving cars. That’s a slightly higher valuation for Uber than what it got last December when Japan’s Softbank acquired a 20 percent stake in the ride-hailing business.

The news comes as Uber has been scaling back its in-house self-driving car project in the wake of a fatal crash last March in Tempe, Arizona. A self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a 49-year-old woman as she was crossing the street. Spokespersons for Uber and Toyota did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

THIS ISN’T THE FIRST TIME TOYOTA HAS INVESTED IN UBER

This isn’t the first time Toyota has invested in Uber. Back in 2016, the Japanese automaker announced it was forming a “strategic partnership” with the San Francisco-based company, in which Uber drivers can lease their vehicles from Toyota and cover their payments through earnings generated as Uber drivers. The deal also included an investment of an undisclosed amount.

Toyota, which is the world’s largest car manufacturer, is taking self-driving technology very seriously. It recently established the Toyota Research Institute to develop AI technologies in two main areas: autonomous cars and robot helpers for around the home. Earlier this year, the automaker announced plans to build a gigantic, 60-acre facility in Michigan to test “edge case” driving scenarios with its autonomous vehicles that are too dangerous to perform on public roads. Toyota also plans to invest $2.8 billion in a new software company it created in order to develop software systems that can power fully self-driving vehicles.

The deal is evidence that Uber no longer wants to go it alone in autonomous cars.

In March, one of the company’s self-driving test vehicles ran down a pedestrian on a dark street in Tempe, Arizona.

Authorities determined that the vehicle’s sensors spotted the woman but its automatic-braking function had been disabled in favor of a human backup driver.

But Tempe police said the driver was distracted and streaming a television show before the crash.

Uber has since pulled its self-driving cars out of Arizona and suspended testing in other cities.

Toyota and Uber were not immediately available for comment.

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