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Uber & Toyota to work on autonomous cars & research in the US


Online cab aggregator Uber has received an undisclosed amount of investment from automaker Toyota, reports Recode. The strategic investment will allow Toyota to partner with Uber to create a vehicle leasing program for Uber’s drivers in the US through Toyota Financial Services. Recode states that this will be an extension of Uber’s existing ‘Vehicle Solutions’ financing platform.

Both the companies will work on transport solutions and collaborate on research. The report adds that initially, both will focus on car sharing but will eventually also collaborate on autonomous technology for cars. Toyota has also sold a fleet of Lexus and Toyota cars to Uber.

Toyota’s focus on self drive vehicles:

Readers would be interested to know that Toyota owns 1,400 self driving car patents (not necessarily related to the success of self driving cars), according to this Ars Technica report from January. Last month, Toyota announced that it was opening its third facility under the Toyota Research Institute which focuses on AI, robotics and autonomous vehicle tech.

Uber debuts autonomous car; says will cause fewer deaths in accidents

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Last week, Uber released a picture of it’s self driving car, a hybrid Ford Fusion, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the US. The company said that it would be collecting mapping data and testing the car’s self driving capabilities, with a driver in the driver’s seat. Uber said that the car has a host of sensors including radars, laser scanners and high res cameras to map its environment. It also added that 94% of the accidents in which 1.3 million people died every year in the US involved human error, so it thinks that self driving technology would mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation and less deaths.

Uber hires researchers; tie up with Carnegie Mellon University

According to a Wall Street Journal report from last May, Uber hired as many as 40 researchers and engineers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), leaving the University to make a new plan for its future. Two months prior to that, Uber had tied up with Carnegie Mellon University to set up “Uber Advanced Technologies Center” in Pittsburgh, near the CMU campus, from where Uber showed off its self driving car. Uber would get access to CMU’s faculty, staff and students on campus as well as at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) for R&D in mapping, vehicle safety and autonomy tech. Interestingly, Uber would also fund faculty chairs and graduate fellowships in the university. However, a report from Reuters from last month states that Uber and CMU haven’t worked on any projects together since the tie up. It cited Herman Herman, director of NREC, as saying that, “It’s not a high priority for us to get joint work with them. Uber decided to give us a gift ($5.5 million) and that’s the extent of the relationship at this moment.”

The race for autonomous cars in the US:

– Most recently, Google, Uber, Lyft, Volvo and Ford created a coalition called The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets to influence lawmakers, regulators and the public with respect to autonomous vehicle technology.

– Earlier this month, Apple pumped in $1 billion in Didi Chuxing (formerly known as Didi Kuaidi) to understand the Chinese market and make future collaborations. Apple would merge some products into Didi, while also partner with other companies for self driving cars.

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– Volkswagen invested $300 million in Gett, a ridesharing and taxi service company.

– Ford showed off its self drive car which sees at night last month.

– In January, General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft, Uber’s US competitor, for developing autonomous vehicle networks.

Image Credit: Uber

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