The investment was first reported by the WSJ. TechCrunch confirmed the Toyota-Uber agreement with a source familiar with the deal. Uber declined to comment on the deal.
Unlike Uber’s partnership with Volvo, the ride-hailing company will not own these vehicles, according to the source. It’s unclear if Toyota will operate these autonomous vehicles or if another third-party, such as a fleet operator, will.
Toyota already has a relationship with Uber, albeit not as closely as under this new arrangement. Toyota announced at CES in January that it is working with Amazon, ride-hailing companies Uber and Didi, automaker Mazda and Pizza Hut to develop an electric autonomous shuttle that can be used to deliver people or packages. The business alliances were created to focus on the development of the new e-Palette Concept Vehicle in the near term.
Toyota also has a research arm, the Toyota Research Institute, that is based in California. TRI debuted its first-generation autonomous vehicle in March 2017. Its Platform 2.1 vehicle, revealed just a few months later, features light ranging and detection radar developed by Silicon Valley startup Luminar.
Toyota (and by extension TRI) have a different deployment strategy for autonomous vehicles than its competitors. The company has previously said it plans to take a dual approach to autonomy that it calls “Guardian” and “Chauffeur,” both of which use the same technology stack.
Toyota’s idea is to develop fully autonomous cars to serve an aging population and the disabled as well as work on technology for regular production cars that could switch between assisted and full autonomy. This “guardian” technology would operate silently in the background.