SoftBank, Toyota in talks to invest in Uber’s self-driving unit: Sources

SABC NEWS Uber R 1 - SoftBank, Toyota in talks to invest in Uber’s self-driving unit: Sources

Uber’s self-driving unit might be set for a billion dollar cash injection. At least that’s if talks pan out with a group of investors including Softbank and Toyota.

Two Reuters sources said the investment of a billion dollars or more could value Uber’s self driving project at between $5 and $10 billion.

It would come even though that project is burning hundreds of millions of dollars without earning Uber any revenue.

Uber and Softbank declined to comment, and a Toyota spokesman said they don’t have anything to announce.

However according to a Wednesday (March 14) report in the Wall Street Journal, a deal could be reached by next month.

The cash boost might be critical.

Reuters Sam Nussey says Uber’s trying to keep up with an industry chasing autonomous cars.

He says: “The challenge of creating self-driving cars we’re seeing a huge number of players creating alliances and partnerships, players you wouldn’t normally see co-operating, like Toyota and Softbank. Softbank has invested a huge amount of money in most of the ride-hailing firms around the world. And it’s very clear that it sees ride-hailing not only as a way of, a cheaper way of calling a taxi, but that these are really going to be the platforms that drive the economy of the future. And for cars, auto makers, this is a really unprecedented sense of crisis that they have. They’re potentially facing becoming a kind of commoditized product, and they really need to be much more pro-active in getting ahead and ensuring that they are a central part of driving, or what they now call mobility services.”

And while that vision of future mobility might be what’s driving such big investments, there’s still a lot of problems to solve.

“The question of how to create self-driving cars is already one that people knew was going to be difficult. But what we’re seeing really now is more uncertainty and perhaps more of a realization that this really is more difficult than even people thought it was going to be. And Uber has been putting a lot of energy into developing self-driving cars, it’s already seen as being a bit behind in the industry, you’ve got players like google who obviously have all of their technology focused on this task.”

Uber lost more than $3 billion last year and is betting on self-driving technology to eliminate the need for paying human drivers.

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