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The world’s biggest ride-hailing company is getting a massive investment from the world’s largest automaker. Japanese giant Toyota has announced it will be investing $500 million in Uber in a strategic move that intends to bring the two companies closer together in the development of self-driving cars.
Both Toyota and Uber already have self-driving car programs, and the move could create a market for the companies to flood the streets with autonomous vehicles. The investment was made at a valuation of Uber at $72 billion, and Toyota says the partnership will be “critical in realizing self-driving technology at scale.”
The companies anticipate that the new vehicles produced will be owned and operated by third party autonomous fleet operators, so neither Toyota or Uber will be responsible for managing the fleet of self-driving cars.
“The deal is the first of its kind for Uber, and signals our commitment to bringing world-class technologies to the Uber network,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “Our goal is to deploy the world’s safest self-driving cars on the Uber network, and this agreement is another significant step towards making that a reality.”
The investment is welcome news for Uber’s self-driving car program, which has hit a few bumps recently, including a pedestrian death in Arizona last March and a lawsuit from Google. It shutdown its operations in Arizona after a self-driving car struck and killed a person — the company only recently reentered the Pittsburgh market with its self-driving cars but have yet to put them back in autonomous mode.
As part of the partnership, Uber will use Toyota Sienna Minivans outfitted with Uber and Toyota’s self-driving technology. Uber will begin testing the vehicles on its ride-hailing network in 2021.
Toyota and Uber have worked together in the past — in January they revealed an autonomous vehicle concept dubbed e-Palette, and in 2016 Toyota invested in the ride-hailing firm to allow drivers to lease Toyota vehicles and have earnings from their rides automatically cover car payments.
Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, has forged similar partnerships with Jaguar and Chrysler to build and develop self-driving cars. Lyft joined with General Motors, Ford and Google in pursuit of its own autonomous ride technology.
Featured image by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images.
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