SoftBank and Toyota want driverless cars to change the world

SoftBank and Toyota want to change the world of transportation through autonomous vehicles and other technologies.

The high profile The Japanese companies are forming a joint venture called Monet to develop businesses that will use driverless car technology to deliver new services, such as mobile convenience stores and delivery vehicles in which food is prepared along the way.

SoftBank (SFTBF) will own a little more than half of Monet, while Toyota (TM) will hold the rest.

The name of the new company is not a reference to Claude Monet, the famous French painter, but rather an abbreviated version of the words “mobility network”.

Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son attended the project’s announcement Thursday in Tokyo, a rare joint appearance by executives from two of Japan’s largest global companies.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son and Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda in Tokyo on Thursday.

Toyota first approached SoftBank with the idea of ​​forming a Japanese alliance to try and catch up with its global rivals who are developing autonomous driving technology.

Around the world, major automakers and tech companies like Google’s parent company, Alphabet (GOOGL), and China Baidu (BIDU) invest resources in autonomous vehicles.

Driverless vehicles have the potential to cause huge disruption in the automotive industry and are also susceptible to transform the carpooling business.

Son, the billionaire founder of SoftBank, presides over a sprawling empire of artificial intelligence companies, internet companies and startups that can collect massive amounts of data on traffic patterns, passenger demands and other trends. in terms of transport.

The new company leverages the technology and data advantages of SoftBank, as well as Toyota’s vehicle manufacturing expertise. His the objectives include developing ways to tackle the problems created by aging Japanese society and the shrinking workforce.

Over the next decade, Monet plans to roll out services such as self-driving buses that can take seniors to grocery stores, hospital shuttles where medical examinations can be performed on board, and mobile offices. It will initially focus on Japan with a view to developing globally.

SoftBank has already invested in autonomous driving. Its tech-focused $ 100 billion Vision fund pledged $ 2.3 billion for General Motors’ self-driving car group GM Cruise earlier this year.

Another big Japanese company on Wednesday, Honda (HMC), mentionned it would also invest $ 2.8 billion in GM Cruise.

Toyota has started to put resources into driverless cars.

He start a new business in March devoted to the research and development of autonomous vehicles, with investment plans of $ 2.8 billion to develop a commercially viable autonomous car.

SoftBank and Toyota have invested in or partnered with some of the world’s biggest racing startups, including Uber, Didi Chuxing in China and Grab, based in Singapore.

The new SoftBank-Toyota company shows how the relationship between automakers and technology companies has evolved.

Twenty years ago, Son approached Toyota with the idea of ​​connecting the company’s Japanese dealerships on the Internet. But Toyoda refused it.

At the time, Son said, SoftBank was a small company that looked to Toyota’s “giant rock”. Today, it is the automaker who asks him for help.

– CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki contributed to this report.

CNNMoney (Hong Kong) First published on October 4, 2018: 1:32 AM ET

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