In order to hasten efforts to bring autonomous ride-hailing services a reality, Toyota will invest $500 million in Uber Technologies Inc.. Part of the agreement will have the two companies work together on developing autonomous vehicles. Under the partnership terms, Uber will utilize their self-driving technology in Toyota Sienna minivans for their ride-hailing network. The companies also stated the vehicles could be owned and operated by a third party fleet management company.
The news is a surprise since Uber has been scaling back their autonomous vehicle research projects since a fatal accident in last March. A self-driving Uber in Tempe, Arizona had collided with a 49-year-old female pedestrian when she was crossing the road. Uber had previously invested roughly $750 million on the research before scaling back. Since the accident, Uber has been looking for ways to lower development costs and losses in their autonomous vehicle research. Uber closed the doors on its Arizona autonomous vehicle operations while laying off 400 test drivers, some of which will be rehired after additional new training. The ride-hailing giant also removed their autonomous vehicles off the streets of San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto during the investigation of the accident.
Uber released a statement, "Our expanded partnership with Toyota signals our commitment to deploying self-driving technology at scale for our riders around the globe." "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," said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. According to the Wall Street Journal, this new deal will value the ride-hailing giant at $72 billion.