Toyota Motor Corp. TM +3.08% is set to invest about $500 million in Uber Technologies Inc. as part of an agreement by the two companies to work jointly on driverless-vehicle development, according to people familiar with the matter.
Toyota’s investment values Uber at about $72 billion, slightly higher than where SoftBank Group Corp. valued the ride-hailing company earlier this year with its funding. Both companies will jointly develop driverless vehicles as part of the investment, according to Dow Jones.
Uber has been seeking ways to lower development costs and losses in its autonomous-vehicle unit, especially after the fallout from a fatal crash involving one of its cars earlier this year in Arizona. They also shifted direction with their Uber Freight arm.
“At a high level we’ve been rethinking our self-driving efforts, we’ve made the decision to focus on cars because we don’t feel we need to immediately be developing self-driving trucks to remain competitive in the freight logistics space,” a spokesperson said. Instead, they’re currently focused on “building out the network first to ensure we have a viable place to put this technology.”
“Given that Uber Freight has been growing as rapidly as it has…we’re continuing to explore approaches to highway driving using the cars,” exploring new business opportunities, like self-driving trucks, in the future,” Uber stated.
The developing partnership comes after several years of collaborating in the space between the two companies. In September 2015, Toyota began to build out research and development centers at the MIT of Technology at Stanford. In March 2016, the company hired the 16-person staff of MIT’s Jaybridge Robotics to help it with its artificial intelligence efforts. The company, along with Uber, even put in a bid to pilot a self-driving car-hail program with the Singapore government, according to Recode. Toyota also previously invested in Uber in 2016 alongside an auto-leasing deal. And a report from March 2018 said Uber was discussing selling self-driving tech to the company, according to Business Insider.
The partnership is also seen as symbiotic, as it gives Toyota a huge research and development extension, while for Uber they’re able to bring their autonomous technology into mass production.
Neither organization could be reached for immediate comment.