Toyota invests $500m in Uber as companies pair up to create driverless cars

Firms said a pilot scheme is set to begin on Uber’s network in 2021

Caitlin Morrison
Tuesday 28 August 2018 08:18
Protesters march against Uber in London

Toyota has invested $500m (£388m) in Uber and announced plans for the firms to collaborate on developing driverless cars for ride sharing.

The carmaker said technology from each company will be used to produce purpose-built Toyota vehicles to be deployed on Uber’s ride sharing network. The first fleet of cars will be based on Toyota’s Sienna minivan, and a pilot scheme is set to begin on Uber’s network in 2021.

Earlier this year, Uber halted an autonomous taxi pilot after a car operated by the ride hailing app struck and killed a pedestrian.

Gill Pratt, chief executive of Toyota’s research institute, said Uber’s automated driving system and Toyota’s Guardian automated system will both be used to monitor the vehicle environment and the real-time situation, “enhancing overall vehicle safety for both the automated driver and the vehicle”.

The firms said they expect the driverless vehicles will be owned and operated by mutually agreed upon third party autonomous fleet operators.

“Combining efforts with Uber, one of the predominant global ride sharing and automated driving R&D companies, could further advance future mobility,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, executive vice-president at Toyota.

“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, that includes Toyota vehicles and technologies.”

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, said the deal signalled the group’s “commitment to bringing world class technologies to the Uber network”.

“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,” he added. “Uber’s advanced technology and Toyota’s commitment to safety and its renowned manufacturing prowess make this partnership a natural fit. I look forward to seeing what our teams accomplish together.”

The announcement of the new partnership comes after Mr Khosrowshahi revealed that Uber is planning to shift focus away from cars and towards electric bikes and scooters for shorter journeys.

He said the move would have a financial impact on the company in the short term, but added: “Strategically long term we think that is exactly where we want to head.”