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Toyota will invest $500 million in Uber (updated)

Their combined self-driving effort will debut in 2021.
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Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Toyota plans to invest around $500 million in Uber, the Wall Street Journal reports, as the two enter an agreement to work together on driverless technologies. The publication cites sources familiar with the matter and the investment would value Uber at $72 billion. Reports surfaced earlier this month that Uber investors told the company it should consider selling off its self-driving car unit due to the substantial losses the project has racked up.

The cash influx will likely be good news for CFO Nelson Chai. Last week, Uber hired the new chief financial officer, filling a position that had been left open since 2015. The company's continued losses are expected to be a challenge for Chai as Uber moves towards an IPO next year.

Update: The deal is official. As expected, Toyota confirmed it will invest $500 million in Uber, and said in a press release that "This agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company as we help provide a path for safe and secure expansion of mobility services like ride-sharing that includes Toyota vehicles and technologies." Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said "Our goal is to deploy the world's safest self-driving cars on the Uber network, and this agreement is another significant step towards making that a reality. Uber's advanced technology and Toyota's commitment to safety and its renowned manufacturing prowess make this partnership a natural fit. I look forward to seeing what our teams accomplish together."

Specifically, their agreement will create an "Autono-MaaS" (autonomous-mobility as a service) fleet based on Toyota's Sienna minivan. Using Uber's self-driving tech and Toyota's Guardian system, they claim it will enhance vehicle safety. It sounds like a better plan than Uber''s previous test with Volvo, where enabling its self-driving tech meant disabling built-in assists that could have helped avoid a crash like the one that killed a pedestrian. The plan is to start "pilot-scale" deployments on Uber's network in 2021.

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