Toyota to Partner with SoftBank on Future Mobility Ventures

Together, the companies will form an on-demand transportation service known as MONET.

Toyota

On the morning of Oct. 4, Toyota and Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank held a joint conference in which the two corporations outlined how they would collaborate in the near future. Toyota's plan is to use SoftBank's networking technology to create connected vehicles for public mobility. To achieve this goal, the two will establish a partnership known as MONET Technologies Corporation by April of 2019.

This move is in line with statements by Toyota President Akio Toyoda during a May 9 speech, in which he stated that he wanted to "redesign" the automaker as a company that "provides services related to movement for people around the world." This means investing more heavily in semi-autonomous systems, ride-sharing, and public transit solutions. Now, with MONET, SoftBank will lend its technological prowess to help make Toyota's next generation of vehicles a reality.

Fittingly, MONET is shorthand for "Mobility Network," and the first step in the joint company's plan is to "roll out just-in-time vehicle dispatch services for local public agencies and private companies throughout Japan. These services, which will include on-demand transportation through regional partnerships and corporate shuttles, will be provided in tune with user demand," according to a Toyota release.

All the vehicles MONET uses will be connected to SoftBank's "Internet of Things" network and will be constantly transmitting data back to the company on things like driver behavior and traffic patterns. This information will then be used to develop the second generation of MONET vehicles, which Toyota has decided to call Autono-MaaS (autonomous mobility as a service). The company plans to produce Autono-MaaS vehicles "by the second half of the 2020s." These proposed concepts are to be electrically-powered, driverless pods that may provide services like food and medical care, or just carry passengers around.

"Among those of you attending or watching today, some are probably wondering, 'Why Toyota and SoftBank?'" asked Toyoda during the conference. "As you all know, the automotive industry is facing sweeping once-in-a-century changes. These changes have been caused by the advent of innovative new technologies called 'CASE' for short. CASE stands for 'connected,' 'autonomous,' 'shared,' and 'electric.' These ideas are totally changing the concept of the car, and our new competitors are radically changing the rules of competition in the market. 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."

This year has seen many marriages between automotive and technology companies. SoftBank already has a stake in General Motor's Cruise platform. Similarly, Google's Waymo has formed partnerships with Chrysler and Jaguar. In the near future, we will see the lines between auto and tech blur even further.

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The Drive