Working together: Dara Khosrowshahi, Ubers CEO and Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota exec VP and head of Toyota Connected Company

Working together: Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's CEO and Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota exec VP and head of Toyota Connected Company

Toyota Motor and Uber plan to work together on developing self-driving car technologies, as the race to lead the global autonomous vehicle segment hots up.

General Motors and Google's Waymo are thought to be current leaders in self-driving technology at the moment, but Japanese and Chinese companies do not want to be left behind in a sector that many expected will revolutionise the global automotive industry in the long term.

Toyota plans to invest US$500m in its partnership with Uber, as it looks to strengthen a relationship which began with 2016 when it acquired an undisclosed stake in the US ride-hailing company.

The two companies plan to pool together resources to help improve safety and share the high costs of developing leading-edge self-driving technologies. Toyota is also expected to develop a purpose-built autonomous taxi.

Uber has looked increasingly reluctant to go it alone in creating an autonomous driving system, particularly since one of its test vehicles crashed into and killed a pedestrian in Arizona earlier this year.

In June Toyota invested US$1bn in Grab, a Singapore-based ride-hailing company which took over Uber's operations in South-east Asia earlier this year.

"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, TMC, and president, Toyota Connected Company. "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."

"The deal is the first of its kind for Uber, and signals our commitment to bringing world-class technologies to the Uber network," said Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's CEO. "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. 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 initial "Autono-MaaS" (autonomous-mobility as a service) fleet will be based on Toyota's Sienna Minivan platform. Uber's Autonomous Driving System and the Toyota Guardian automated safety support system will both be integrated into the Autono-MaaS vehicles. Toyota will also utilise its Mobility Services Platform (MSPF), its core information infrastructure for connected vehicles. Pilot-scale deployments will begin on the Uber ride-sharing network in 2021.

"Uber's automated driving system and Toyota's Guardian system will independently monitor the vehicle environment and real-time situation, enhancing overall vehicle safety for both the automated driver and the vehicle," said Dr. Gill Pratt, Toyota Research Institute CEO and TMC Fellow. "We look forward to this partnership accelerating both companies' development and deployment of automated driving technology."

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