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Toyota and SoftBank to set up driverless car service

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp and SoftBank Group Corp have joined hands to set up a service for “just-in-time” autonomous cars targeted at businesses like meal deliveries and hospital shuttles for processing on the move.

The companies today entered into an agreement to form a mobility services venture—MONET Technologies with an initial capital of 2 billion Yen, which will be increased to 10 billion yen going forward. SoftBank Corp will hold 50.25% stake in Monet.

“I think that cars will become part of our social network by connecting us to our communities through data and information and helping to provide services that support our everyday lives,” Akio Toyoda, president, Toyota said at the launch.

The new venture is expected to be operational by end of April 2019, after securing all regulatory approvals. In its first phase, Monet aims to roll out “just-in-time” vehicle dispatch services for local public agencies and private companies across Japan.

“These services, which will include on-demand transportation through regional partnerships and corporate shuttles, will be provided in tune with user demand,” said a joint statement.

MONET plans to roll out Autono-MaaS (autonomous mobility as a service) in the second half of fiscal 2020. This will be based on Toyota’s dedicated battery electric vehicle for mobility services called e-Palette. This will be targeted at businesses such as meal deliveries vehicle where food is prepared while on the move, hospital shuttles where onboard medical examinations can be performed and mobile offices among others. Toyota has such collaborations with Uber, Grab, Didi, and Getaround.

MONET will bring together Toyota’s Mobility Services Platform (MSPF), its information infrastructure for connected vehicles and SoftBank’s Internet of Things (IoT). “MONET also intends to roll out these businesses in Japan with an eye to future expansion on the global market,” the joint statement said.

The move comes a day after Honda said it is investing $750 million in General Motors’ self-driving car startup—Cruise, which is planning to launch a “level 4” taxi service by next year. Honda will further invest $2 billion stretched over a period of 12 years in the startup.

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