Japanese carmaker Toyota will invest $ 500 million (£388 million) in the company Uber, which will develop partnerships for the development of unmanned vehicles.
It deepens an existing relationship in a bid to catch up with rivals in the race to design and produce autonomous vehicles for the mass market.
The aim of the partnership is to use technology from both companies in purpose-built Toyota cars to be deployed across Uber’s ride-sharing network from 2021. Toyota’s investment values Uber at $72bn, despite mounting losses that totalled $4.5bn in 2017.
Shigeki Tomoyama, the executive vice-president of Toyota, said: “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 a step towards the revival of Uber’s self-driving business after a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona, in March, when a self-driving Uber SUV killed a pedestrian. Uber subsequently withdrew its autonomous cars from the road, laid off hundreds of test drivers and closed its self-driving testing hub in Arizona.
Under the latest deal with Toyota, Uber will combine its autonomous driving system with Toyota’s Guardian technology, which offers some automated safety features such as lane-keeping but does not enable a vehicle to entirely self-driven.
The firms said the ambition was to build the combined technology into Toyota’s Sienna minivans, to be used on Uber’s ride-hailing network from 2021.
They will be playing catch-up with a range of rivals, including Waymo, the driverless car business of Alphabet, the owner of Google.
Dara Khosrowshahi, the chief executive of Uber, said it was the first deal of its kind for the firm.
“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,” he said.