Toyota and Uber on Monday announced that they will work together on self-driving car development in an effort to put purpose-built autonomous Toyota Sienna minivans in the ride-share firm's fleet in 2021.
Toyota said that it will invest $500 million in Uber, which follows an undisclosed investment the automaker made in the ride-share firm in 2016.
The two firms said in a statement that they plan to integrate their self-driving technology over the next few years in order to deploy the autonomous vans. Uber has been developing its self-driving technology over the last few years using Volvo XC90 crossover SUVs it bought from the Swedish automaker.
“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,” Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt said in a statement.
The Toyota Guardian system operates like a second set of eyes for self-driving vehicles, enabling them to see about 660 feet in any direction in order to take evasive moves to avoid a potential impact. Toyota said in a statement that the trial will be called "Autono-MaaS” (autonomous-mobility as a service).
The news comes on the heels of Toyota's announcement that four of its subsidiaries in Japan will form a new joint-venture by March 2019 to consolidate development of self-driving cars. Toyota has lagged some rivals such as Ford in consolidating autonomous vehicle development.
The joint-venture will focus on "expediting the development of more sophisticated software required for larger and more complex integrated ECUs (engine control units)," Toyota's subsidiaries said in a joint statement.
Toyota's investment values Uber at $72 billion, about $10 billion more than analysts said the company was worth earlier this summer after a series of devastating setbacks including a fatal crash involving a self-driving test vehicle in Arizona in March.
It's not clear how Toyota's partnership with Uber will affect the ride-share firm's 2017 agreement with Germany's Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz. Daimler said in early 2017 that it will deploy self-driving vehicle in Uber's fleet in the future.