Toyota and Aurora partner on self-driving cars

Toyota and Aurora announced on Tuesday plans to collaborate on self-driving car development.

The two companies said they formed a long-term partnership to build and deploy self-driving cars at scale. Japanese automotive supplier Denso is also involved in the partnership.

We won’t have to wait too long to see the first fruits of the partnership. A fleet of Toyota Sienna minivans equipped with a self-driving system developed by Aurora will start testing on public roads in the United States by the end of 2021. Aurora is currently testing prototypes in California, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Toyota has been developing self-driving cars on its own for several years and has also worked with Uber on the technology. Toyota is also a shareholder of Uber.

However, Uber sold its self-driving car division, known as Uber Advanced Technology Group, to Aurora late last year. Uber in the future will license a self-driving system from a company like Aurora.

Aurora on Tuesday said it will be ready to introduce its self-driving system to ride-hailing fleets operated by Uber, as well as Toyota, within the “next few years.” Aurora wants to offer a full service to companies operating self-driving fleets, by covering the financing, insurance and maintenance aspects, as well as the actual self-driving technology.

“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,” Keiji Yamamoto, Toyota’s operating officer, said in a statement.

Aurora was established in 2016 with Chris Urmson, one of the early heads of the Google Self-Driving Car Project, now Waymo, among the co-founders. Another co-founder, Sterling Anderson, was in charge of development of Tesla’s Autopilot system in its early years. Aurora’s first product will be a self-driving system designed specifically for trucks, the company said.

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