Toyota strikes $500m driverless car deal with Uber

28 Aug 2018

Uber logo outside its offices in San Francisco. Image: JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock

Japanese auto giant Toyota is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Uber.

One of the world’s leading car manufacturers, Toyota, is teaming up with Uber to jointly work on the development of driverless cars. The deal involves an investment of $500m from Toyota.

This means that self-driving technology from Uber will be integrated with Toyota’s Guardian safety technology. The technologies will be built into purpose-built Toyota vehicles and the fleet will base itself on its Sienna Minivan model.

Pilot trials are due to begin in 2021. Once complete, the fleet will be operated by an as yet unknown third party.

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.”

The investment from the Japanese auto giant values Uber at $72bn.

Lagging behind?

Both Toyota and Uber are viewed as lagging behind in terms of self-driving car developments, so a deal benefits both companies, bringing experience and resources together.

Toyota has been less aggressive in self-driving development in comparison to some of its rivals, instead focusing on partially autonomous systems, such as Guardian. The companies are both aiming to solve the problem of mass production of self-driving cars for shared fleets, including ride-sharing services.

Uber’s self-driving business has been quiet in recent months, following the death of an Arizona pedestrian who was hit by one of its vehicles earlier this year.

Since the fatality, the company has removed its self-driving fleet from the road, closed operations in Arizona and let hundreds of test drivers go.

Uber has already teamed up with Daimler, which hopes to own and run its own self-driving fleet on Uber’s network. The investment is an element of this new strategy focusing on partnerships with other auto companies.

It was only Monday (27 August) that we reported Uber would be pivoting its focus to electric scooter- and bicycle-sharing rather than car transport in future.

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said at the time: “Short-term financially, maybe it’s not a win for us but strategically long-term, we think that is exactly where we want to head.”

Uber logo outside its offices in San Francisco. Image: JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock

Updated, 10.59am, 28 August 2018: This article was updated to clarify that we reported Uber was pivoting away from car transport yesterday, which was 27 August, not 27 July. Silicon Republic apologises for this error and our apparent reluctance to acknowledge that summer is almost over.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects