TOKYO — The Japanese telephone and tech giant SoftBank Corp., which has been investing rapidly in the automotive sector, last week inked a deal with Toyota Motor Corp. to launch an autonomous mobility company that would deliver on-demand services to people's doorsteps by robocar.
The agreement to jointly invest in Monet Technologies Corp. follows on SoftBank's moves to buy in to all corners of new mobility, from sensors and microchips to ride-hailing. SoftBank calls it a "cluster strategy" to lock up the key technologies of tomorrow's cars.
Monet takes its name from the words "mobility network." The vision is to use vehicles such as Toyota's e-Palette autonomous cargo carrier concept to do things such as deliver food and medical care and take retail shopping to remote areas. That would happen after 2020, the two companies said.
With their costly network of semiconductors and sensors, such autonomous vehicles will be too expensive initially for individuals, the partners believe. So Monet will first target commercial fleets.
Under the agreement, SoftBank will own 50.25 percent of Monet, and Toyota the rest. The partners will make an initial outlay of ¥2 billion ($17.5 million) and increase the investment to $87.7 million over time.