As Uber finally closes in on its IPO, its self-driving car unit is getting a big cash infusion and some independence. The company announced tonight that Toyota, Denso and Softbank are investing a total of $1 billion in its Advanced Technologies Group (Uber ATG), in a deal that values that part of the company at $7.25 billion. This adds onto Toyota’s $500 million investment last year, which the two said would lead to the creation of an autonomous fleet based on Toyota’s Sienna minivan.
So far, many of the big car companies are teaming up to develop autonomous tech combined with ridesharing angles as it’s expected to be a huge market in the next few years. According to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, “The development of automated driving technology will transform transportation as we know it, making our streets safer and our cities more livable. Today’s announcement, along with our ongoing OEM and supplier relationships, will help maintain Uber’s position at the forefront of that transformation.”
In the statement Toyota EVP Shigeki Tomoyama said “Leveraging the strengths of Uber ATG’s autonomous vehicle technology and service network and the Toyota Group’s vehicle control system technology, mass-production capability, and advanced safety support systems, such as Toyota Guardian™, will enable us to commercialize safer, lower cost automated ridesharing vehicles and services.”
The deal won’t close until Q3, which should be well after Uber’s initial public offering that’s on track to occur in May. It’s also being announced after Arizona prosecutors announced they did not find the company criminally liable for a 2018 self-driving car crash that killed a pedestrian. The deal makes Uber ATG its own corporate entity that’s controlled by Uber. Reuters reports that it has ATG head Eric Meyhofer as CEO reporting to a newly-formed board of directors, with six appointed by Uber, one by Toyota and one by Softbank.