Toyota and SoftBank's self-driving alliance looking to mobile offices and restaurants
Toyota is another carmaker that is taking self-driving technology seriously, having announced a partnership with the Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank to set up a new mobility company that will combine autonomous driving and various mobility services. And yes, the vehicles will be electric.
Japan’s largest carmaker and one of its most influential tech companies agreed to jointly develop new mobility services through a joint venture company, Monet Technologies Corporation, that will be created before April 2019. The name Monet combines the first letters of the words mobility network. It will coordinate between Toyota’s Mobility Services Platform and Softbank’s Internet of Things platform.
Monet will start will initial capital of 2 billion yen and will be owned for just over half by SoftBank.
The joint venture is proof of both growing readiness among large companies to invest in new mobility models and of the enormity of the endeavour, as companies wish to share costs, expertise and risk.
“SoftBank alone and automakers alone can’t do everything,” said Junichi Miyakawa, chief technology officer at SoftBank Corp who will be CEO of the new company. “We want to work to help people with limited access to transportation.”
Mobile offices and medical examinations
By using a wide range of data related to vehicles and human mobility on both platforms, Monet aims to optimise supply and demand in transportation and ultimately to launch Mobility as a Service (MaaS) businesses capable of resolving social mobility issues.
In its first stage, Monet plans to roll out just-in-time vehicle dispatch services for local public agencies and private companies throughout Japan.
By the second half of the 2020s, Monet plans to roll out Autono-MaaS (autonomous + MaaS) businesses using e-Palette, Toyota’s dedicated battery-electric vehicle for mobility services that can be used for various purposes, including mobility, logistics and sales. Possibilities include demand-focused just-in-time mobility services such as meal delivery vehicles where food is prepared while on the move, hospital shuttles where on-board medical examinations can be performed or mobile offices.
Monet intends to roll out these businesses globally if they are successful in Japan.
Honda, Daimler and Renault
Earlier this week, Honda announced it would invest almost $3 billion for a 5.7% stake in GM’s Cruise self-driving unit in which SoftBank is also an investor. On the same day, Daimler and Renault said they were planning to expand their cooperation in battery development, self-driving vehicles and mobility services.
SoftBank also holds stakes in various ride hailing companies across the globe.
Image: Masoyoshi Son, Representative, SoftBank Group and Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation