The combination of ride-sharing and autonomous-driving technology is in sight. After Softbank and Toyota, DENSO bets on Uber to gain a significant share on this potentially huge market of the immediate future.
Uber confirmed on Thursday night that it has raised $1 billion investment for its autonomous driving unit. The existing shareholders, Softbank Vision Fund and Toyota, were joined by DENSO, a car-parts maker.
The two Japanese participants contribute with two-third to the project, and Softbank is responsible for the rest. These partner companies leveraged the existing service network and self-driving technology Uber possesses.
With this boost of capital the value of Uber’s autonomous driving unit has been raised to $7,25 billion. Toyota intends to invest additional $300 million into the project in the next three years. The Japanese carmaker company was the first major investor with a contribution of $500 million last year. Along with the capital, the Toyota Group brings its own autonomous vehicle technology, mass-production capacity and chain of suppliers to the table.
This new corporate entity, Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), remains to stay under Uber’s control. The ride-haling company names the CEO, in ATG head Eric Meyhofer, and six members of the board of directors. SoftBank and Toyote delegates each of the appointed members.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed the ambitions of the company with the following words: ’The development of automated driving technology will transform transportation as we know it, making our streets safer and our cities more livable. Today’s announcement, along with our ongoing OEM and supplier relationships, will help maintain Uber’s position at the forefront of that transformation.’
The selected vehicle for the self-driving fleet of Uber is a hybrid version of the Toyota Sienna. The first wave of these Minivans are said to be delivered for Uber in 2021, which means that we probably won’t see Uber self-riding taxis before 2022. Uber will provide the autonomous driving kit and the control computer that operates steering, braking, the motor and the battery. The last public planned production number was 100 vehicles.
The ATG deal is expected to close in the third quarter if this year. Uber plans to go public with its IPO sometime in May. A flow of capital is much needed because this ambitious self-driving project is burning $20 million each month.
Further good news for Uber that prosecutors did not find the company liable for the self-driving crash that killed a pedestrian in Arizona, March, 2018.