Toyota and Softbank form Monet mobility company, plan autonomous services

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Toyota e-Palette self-driving electric mobility concept

Toyota e-Palette self-driving electric mobility concept

Toyota and technology investment firm Softbank on Thursday agreed to join forces in developing a new mobility company that will offer a variety of services including automated delivery and ride hailing.

The new company, to be called Monet Technologies, will be established before the end of 2018 with a 50.25-percent ownership by Softbank and the remaining 49.75 percent by Toyota. The two companies plan to spend only about $17.5 million initially but will increase this depending on the success of the venture.

Softbank, which has more than $100 billion of assets under management and is considered the world's biggest tech fund, is the same company that in May invested $2.25 billion in self-driving car company Cruise, which currently is tied with General Motors and Honda.

Softbank is also a major investor in several of the world's most popular ride-hail services including Uber, Didi and Grab. The latter, which is based in Southeast Asia, received a $1b investment from Toyota in June.

Toyota e-Palette self-driving electric mobility concept

Toyota e-Palette self-driving electric mobility concept

As for the new company Monet, whose name is a portmanteau of “mobility” and “network,” it will initially offer a ride-hail service in Japan for several public agencies and partner companies. However, as early as 2020, Monet will launch an autonomous delivery service based around Toyota's e-Palette, a self-driving shuttle bus that was shown in concept form earlier this year.

Possibilities include demand-focused just-in-time mobility services, such as meal deliveries vehicle where food is prepared while on the move, hospital shuttles where onboard medical examinations can be performed, mobile offices, and many more. While Monet is expected to initially offer these services in Japan only, the plan is to expand globally.

“Softbank alone and an automaker alone can’t do everything alone,” Junichi Miyakawa, Softbank's CTO who is also head of Monet, said in a statement. “It is better to work together. We believe we can catch up with the more advanced players abroad.”

Some of those more advanced players he's referring to include Waymo and Cruise in the United States, which plan to launch commercial services involving self-driving cars in 2018 and 2019, respectively. There's also Daimler and the BMW Group in Germany, which have joined forces to start a new mobility company. The Volkswagen Group is also in the race with its own mobility company Moia.

 
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