Could the era of the car buyer be coming to an end? Toyota certainly seems to think so, with Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp, suggesting in a statement that the company should see itself more as a ‘mobility provider’ moving forward, rather than car maker. As a first step in this direction, Toyota and its auto parts subsidiary, Denso, have signed an agreement with Aurora Innovation Inc to build and deploy self-driving cars in volume on a global scale.
According to Aurora, the collaboration will bring the respective companies’ engineering teams together to develop and test driverless-capable vehicles featuring its ‘Aurora Driver’ package of hardware, sensors and autonomous software, starting with the Toyota Sienna mini-van.
By the end of 2021, Aurora expects to have designed, built, and begun testing an initial fleet of these Siennas on its dedicated Aurora Test Site Network and Aurora and Toyota facilities in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Michigan and Texas.
The deal will also lay the groundwork for the mass-production, launch, and support of Toyota-built AVs on ride-hailing networks, including Uber’s, which Aurora acquired earlier this year. Aurora will explore mass production of key autonomous driving components with Denso and a comprehensive services solution with Toyota for when these vehicles are deployed at scale, including financing, insurance, maintenance, and more.
Commenting on the partnership, Chris Urmson, Aurora CEO said: “Toyota has an unparalleled legacy, engineering expertise, leadership, and ability to deliver high-quality, affordable, and reliable vehicles. They’re also the preferred vehicle brand for transporting riders on ride-hailing networks, so we’re excited and honored to work with them to unlock driverless mobility services with the Aurora Driver. Our development work on highway driving to support our first commercial product, a driverless truck, will also be critical for safely moving people, as a significant fraction of ride-share bookings today require the ability to drive over 50 mph.”
“Toyota is dedicated to creating and realizing mobility for all by focusing on technology that will move people safely and responsibly, a vision Aurora shares with us,” added Keiji Yamamoto, operating officer of Toyota and president of Connected Company. “By combining our expertise and know-how in vehicle control systems, mass-production, Connected Car technology, and our advanced safety support systems with Aurora’s industry-leading approach to self-driving technology, we aim to commercialize and deliver safe, high-quality, and affordable autonomous ride-sharing vehicles and services.”