Toyota ties SoftBank in car tech

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp and SoftBank Group Corp said they would team up to develop new transport services, adding to a slew of deals aimed at sharing costs and securing expertise in technologies which promise to drastically change the way people use cars.

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The partnership between Japan’s top automaker and tech firm shows that even the biggest, well-funded players fear being left behind in the race to develop self-driving and connected cars.

The companies said in a statement they will form a new joint venture would be called MONET, short for mobility network, that will start with 2 billion yen ($17.5 million) in capital. SoftBank will hold a 50.25 percent stake with Toyota owning the rest.

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The news comes a day after Honda Motor Co Ltd said it would invest $2.75 billion and take a 5.7 percent stake in General Motors Co’s Cruise self-driving vehicle unit, in which SoftBank is also an investor.

Also on Wednesday, Daimler AG and Renault said they may expand their cooperation to batteries, self-driving vehicles and mobility services.

Toyota and SoftBank do not have any major partnerships in mobility technologies at the moment, although both are developing technologies for self-driving vehicles, car sharing and other services.

Both have investments and partnerships with Uber Technologies and ride-hailing firm Grab, and Didi Chuxing.

Toyota, one of the world’s largest automakers, has been developing automated driving and artificial intelligence technologies in-house and with its group suppliers, while acquiring some technology start-ups.

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The automaker envisions the future of transportation services will include convoys of shuttle bus-sized, self-driving multi-purpose vehicles used, for instance, as pay-per-use mobile restaurants and hotels.

SoftBank has its own autonomous vehicle unit, SB Drive, which has been developing self-driving technology for buses.

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