Japanese carmaker Toyota is ploughing $500million (£387m) into Uber to help the taxi firm get ahead in the race to develop self-driving cars.
The tie-up will supposedly result in the ‘mass-production’ of autonomous vehicles to be used on Uber’s ride sharing network, with driverless taxis being tested by 2021.
Uber’s self-driving technology will be integrated into purpose-built Toyota vehicles based on its Sienna Minivan model.
Cash injection: Japanese carmaker Toyota has announced it will invest $500m (£387m) in Uber to jointly develop self-driving cars in a bid to catch up with its rivals
The cars will also be equipped with Toyota’s so-called ‘Guardian’ technology – advanced safety features, such as lane-keeping.
The tie-up values Uber at some $72bn (£56bn), up 15 per cent since its last investment in May.
Uber has scaled back its autonomous vehicle trials after a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona in March when a self-driving Uber SUV killed a pedestrian.
The firm removed its driverless cars from the road and shut down its Arizona operations.
This is despite Uber spending approximately £800,000 to £1.5million on self-driving vehicles every day.
Uber’s self-driving unit has weighed on its bottom line, contributing to losses of £690million in its second quarter.
However, it’s hoped the move will allow both companies to square up to their rivals, such as Waymo, who are also producing autonomous cars.
Shigeki Tomoyama, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corporation, 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.’
Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of business development for strategic initiatives, added that the partnership ‘really paints the picture of how we envision deploying autonomous technology in the long term’.
Bumper deal: The tie-up values Uber at some $72bn (£56bn), matching the valuation in a deal with Waymo this year, up 15% since its last investment in May
That includes licensing its autonomous technology to carmakers and enlisting a third party, yet to be determined, to own and maintain the fleet.
Shares in Toyota spiked at reports of the deal.
Toyota has been less aggressive than some of its competitors in moving towards fully-fledged autonomous driving, focusing on partially driverless systems.
But it has invested in research and plans to begin testing self-driving electric cars by around 2020.
Partner progress: The deal furthers Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s strategy of developing autonomous driving technology through partnerships
A Toyota official said the company would continue its research into self-driving technology, and that it would not combine its research efforts with Uber.
The deal extends an existing relationship with Toyota, and furthers Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s strategy of developing autonomous driving technology through partnerships.
Two years ago, Toyota invested an undisclosed sum in Uber and the two companies partnered on a car-leasing programme for Uber drivers and an electric mobility project.
Cutting edge: Uber also has a deal to buy cars from Volvo and fit and maintain them with its technology
Uber said yesterday it planned to focus more on its electric scooter and bike business, and less on cars despite increased revenue from its taxi business.
Analysts believe personal car ownership will drop dramatically because of self-driving and ride-sharing, with major firms buying huge fleets of vehicles to meet demand.