Toyota Motor and SoftBank Group are teaming up to develop self-driving vehicle services, signaling deepening alliances among top automakers and tech companies as the global race to develop autonomous cars intensifies.
Japan’s biggest automaker and its most influential tech firm will jointly work on a platform to operate self-driving vehicles which can be used as mobile shops, hospitals and other services as they imagine a future in which fewer people drive their own vehicles.
The tie-up shows that even big, well-funded companies want to share expenses and expertise in pursuing promising but risky automotive innovations that have yet to gain widespread costumer acceptance.
The joint venture will start small with starting capital of 2 billion yen ($17.5 million). SoftBank will own just over fifty percent of the business, which will initially concentrate on Japan and eventually go international.
“SoftBank alone and automakers alone can’t do everything,” stated Junichi Miyakawa, chief technology officer at SoftBank Corp who is going to be CEO of the new company. “We want to work to help people with limited access to transportation.”
The partnership will see Toyota and SoftBank collaborate together to develop the automaker’s multi-purpose mobility service based on its “e-Palette” concept announced previously this year, in which Toyota prepares to produce the hardware and software for convoys of shuttle bus-sized, self-driving multi-purpose vehicles utilized, for instance, as pay-per-use mobile restaurants and hotels.