Toyota, SoftBank setting up mobility services joint venture

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Desk Report:

Japan’s No. 1 automaker Toyota Motor Corp. and technology giant SoftBank Group Corp. are setting up a joint venture to create mobility services in what they called a “united Japan” effort to face global competition.

The venture, Monet Technologies Corp. is meant to be running by the end of March. It will work on on-demand vehicle services, food deliveries and hospital shuttles with onboard medical exams, the companies said Thursday in a news conference at a Tokyo hotel.

“This may look like an unusual combination,” SoftBank’s executive in charge of technology, Junichi Miyakawa, acknowledged, referring to the odd-couple union of an old-style manufacturer like Toyota with a relative newcomer like SoftBank. The energy and telecoms company’s past tie-ups have tended to be with overseas startups.

“But Japan must compete with the rest of the world. That is why we are shaking hands today,” Miyakawa said after shaking hands with his counterpart at Toyota, Shigeki Tomoyama.

Tomoyama said the joint venture will deliver services that combine Toyota’s manufacturing know-how with SoftBank’s technology prowess, which includes the Internet of Things, IoT, technology.

The services will roll out in Japan first, but a global expansion is in the works, the companies said.

Toyota is developing autonomous vehicles in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Monet plans to roll out a business featuring autonomous vehicle services by the second half of 2020, they said.

Automakers around the world are forming tie-ups in the race to develop the next-generation of transportation, such as self-driving cars.

Earlier this week, Toyota’s Japanese rival Honda Motor Co. said it was investing $2.75 billion in GM Cruise, an autonomous-vehicle unit run by General Motors Co. of the U.S.unb

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