On Monday, news emerged that Toyota has reportedly signed a $500 million deal with Uber regarding self-driving technology. The Japanese automaker will integrate Uber’s autonomous driving technology into some of its Sienna minivans, which—if all goes well—will enter service at some future date as ride-hailing vehicles accessed through Uber’s platform. This deal follows a $300 million investment in Uber by Toyota in 2016.
Toyota is one of three OEMs linked with Uber. In August 2016, Uber signed a $300 million deal with Volvo to develop self-driving vehicles and announced plans in late 2017 to buy 24,000 XC90 SUVs from the Swedish company. And in January 2017, Daimler (which owns Mercedes-Benz) revealed that it plans to eventually use Uber’s network to offer rides in autonomous vehicles that it is developing.
Toyota’s progress in autonomous-vehicle technology has been lagging behind many other such programs. The consulting firm Navigant Research ranked it 12th out of 19 such efforts at the beginning of the year, far behind GM and Waymo. This is despite a hefty patent portfolio and a $1 billion investment in Jaybridge Robotics in 2016.
Toyota’s involvement is certainly a vote of confidence in Uber, which has been beset by troubles of late. Uber’s autonomous car division has been struggling to find its way since March 2018 when an Arizona woman was struck and killed by one of the company’s self-driving R&D vehicles. Following that death, the company suspended its autonomous vehicle testing in Arizona, and, more recently, it has scaled back the extent of its testing program in Pittsburgh as well as choosing not to renew its permit to test in California. (Toyota also suspended its testing programs in Michigan and California following the Uber fatality.)
On top of that, Uber settled a trade secrets lawsuit with Waymo in February 2018 over data that had been allegedly stolen by a former Waymo engineer who then took it to a company that was quickly acquired by Uber. That lawsuit ended with Uber giving Waymo a 0.34 percent equity share of Uber, worth more than $244 million.
Uber did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.
UPDATE 7:07pm ET: Sarah Abboud, an Uber spokeswoman, emailed:
I can confirm that Toyota’s investment was part of our Series G-1 preferred, with a valuation of $72B. More on our announcement in the press release, which you can find here with supporting visuals. Also sharing our newsroom post and additional background below:
While this isn’t our first automotive partnership, this is a new approach for us. We now have three different models:
(1) Volvo: we purchase vehicles, upfit them with our self-driving tech, and directly operate them on our network;
(2) Daimler: they own, develop and operate their self-driving vehicles on our network; and
(3) Toyota: vehicles owned and operated by mutually agreed upon third party. Vehicles will be deployed to the Uber network. We’ll supply our self-driving systems to power the Toyota Siennas.