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Toyota Teams Up With SoftBank on Driverless Car Project

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In the autonomous vehicle business, partnerships are everything. The cost and complexity of developing self-driving technology is such that auto and tech companies are striking alliances left and right in the pursuit of sharing costs and research toward the future of mobility.

The latest partnership is now that between Toyota and SoftBank, which have announced a joint venture called Monet. It will develop business that offer new services via driverless car technology, such as delivery vehicles that prepare food on route, and mobile convenience stores.

Toyota and SoftBank both already hold investments in ride-sharing companies like Uber, Grab, and Didi Chuxing, though this is their first major collaboration together, and they say more is to come. “The mobility company is just the first step,” said Masayoshi Son, SoftBank founder. “There will be a second and third and I hope that the connection will deepen going forward.”

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The partnership is also a show of confidence in Toyota from Son, who had in the past been critical of Japanese automakers for lagging behind overseas rivals, and from whom Toyota had, 20 years ago, rejected a business proposition. “He has an image of the future,” Son told the media. “Automobiles are becoming a cluster of semiconductors, not screws, bolts, and nuts.”

This assertion was mirrored by a Toyota executive Shigeki Tomoyama, who said that partnership evolved after SoftBank’s presence in the ride-hailing industry became widespread and apparent, and contradicting rumors that the two companies did not get along.

“We are trying to take traditional carmaking into new fields,” he said. “We realized that SoftBank shares the same vision when it comes to the future of cars, so it’s time that we partner together.”

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