DETROIT (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp and long-time supplier partner Denso Corp will work with self-driving Autostart Aurora to develop and build autonomous minivans for hail networks, the company announced on Tuesday.
The deal provides San Francisco-based Aurora with a clearer path to profitability as it competes with Waymo from Alphabet Inc., Cruise and Argo AI from General Motors Co, whose main investors are Ford Motor Co and Volkswagen AG.
Toyota Sienna minivans will be equipped with Aurora’s self-driving system. A test fleet is to be used by the end of 2021. There are plans to deploy the vehicles in Uber Technologies’ hail fleet and unspecified vehicles some time later.
In December, Aurora announced it had purchased Uber’s self-driving unit, Advanced Technologies Group (Uber ATG), valued at $ 4 billion, well below ATG’s previous valuation of $ 7.25 billion.
Toyota and Denso, along with the Japanese SoftBank group, were investors in Uber ATG. Toyota worked with Uber ATG to develop a self-driving system that ATG executives said would be deployed on the Sienna.
Aurora’s new agreement with Toyota and Denso extends the previous collaboration between the two Japanese companies and Uber ATG. Toyota remains an investor in Uber and has transferred its stake from ATG to Aurora as part of the December transaction, according to a source familiar with the deal.
As part of the December deal with ATG, Uber agreed to invest $ 400 million in Aurora, which is worth $ 10 billion to Aurora. The two companies agreed to work together on self-driving vehicles for Ubers Ride hail and food delivery networks.
Aurora said it will study the mass production of self-driving components with Denso and the development of mobility services with Toyota, including financing, insurance and maintenance.
Aurora has also signed a contract with heavy truck manufacturer PACCAR to develop self-driving systems for long-haul cargo delivery.
Aurora previously had development agreements with Volkswagen and Hyundai Motor. VW eventually bought a significant stake in Argo, while Hyundai formed a joint venture called Motional with supplier Aptiv to develop self-driving vehicles for robotaxi fleets.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert; editing by Bernadette Baum)