Toyota To Acquire $1 Billion Stake in Ride-Hailing Service Grab

This is by far the largest deal a by a carmaker in a ride-hailing provider.

This move by Toyota definitely marks the transition of traditional carmakers from manufacturing to services.

The Japanese company just agreed to acquire a $1 Billion stake in Grab, Southeast Asia’s biggest ride-hailing company. The announcement was made in a statement by Toyota earlier this week. The company did not disclose what percentage of Grab it will own.

According to a person familiar with the deal, the value of six-year-old Grab will be just over $10 billion after the investment.

“We will work with partners like Toyota to continue to transform transportation in Southeast Asia,” Grab said in an email to Reuters. “We want to be the one-stop mobility platform for users.”

“Going forward, together with Grab, we will develop services that are more attractive, safe and secure for our customers in Southeast Asia,” Toyota executive Shigeki Tomoyama said in a statement.

This is not the first time that the Japan-based company has invested in Grab. Last year, it also pumped in an undisclosed amount to the latter. Toyota also invested in San Francisco-based Uber as well as in Japan Taxi Co. Ltd, an Uber rival.

The car industry is really racing with tech companies to gain a level footing on mobility services. With the rise of ride-hailing and vehicle sharing companies, there is a lesser need for car ownership. Honda and General Motors are the two other big names who have also invested in ride-hailing applications.

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e-Palette: Toyota’s Pod for Olympics 2020 Impresses at CES 2018

Just when you thought that e-commerce has reached its peak with Amazon and Alibaba grabbing retail and wholesale business from brick-and-mortar stores, along comes Toyota with its e-Palette, the self-driving store and transportation vehicle of the future. Unveiled at CES 2018 by Toyota President, Akio Toyoda, it is scheduled to officially debut in the 2020 Olympics. The e-Palette is a curious invention; something that is so quirky that it can only come from innovative Japanese minds.

“Need Specific Applications… Right Size… Right Place mobility”

You either like it because it channels Star Wars or detest it with a passion because it, well, looks like it stepped out of a Star Wars movie set. Either way, you are in for a big surprise with e-Palette; a concept vehicle developed for different applications that leveraged Toyota’s Global Mobility Services Platform with input from its launch partners like Amazon, Mazda, Uber, Pizza Hut, Getaround, and Didi. e-Palette will be fully autonomous, battery-electric vehicle with open control interface to allow partner companies to install their own automated driving system. What’s not to like? It’s practically plug-and-play and programmable.

“e-Palette, is an electric, self-driving vehicle that when launched will apparently be a combination deli, pizza delivery, retail shop and ride-hailing service.” Akio Toyoda

The e-Palette is touted as a “New Ecosystem for Mobility-Powered Business”. But what does this really mean? According to Toyota, many applications are lined by and some of these concepts were created in active collaboration with its alliance service and technology development partners. All these were created with the user lifestyle in mind for greater convenience, efficiency, and productivity. Among the more interesting ways, it could be mainstreamed are:

  • e-Commerce store
  • mass transport/ride sharing
  • healthcare/hospital
  • hotel room
  • retail shopping
  • mobility for special needs
  • office
  • logistics
  • food truck/restaurant and more.

The e-Palette Pod is customizable, has a full range of connected applications, comes with an open layout to better suit user needs, and three lengths ranging from 4-7meters. The cube design promises more space as shown in the CES 2018 concept model (L 4,800mm, W 2,000mm, H 2,250m). Not only is it flexible – it also has software tools and an open control interface that will allow partner companies to integrate their own automated driving system.

It is truly the cutting edge of vehicle control technology with its automated control system, cameras, and sensors. It communicates through a global communication system using Toyota’s Big Data Center enabling it to get updates in real time.

“I don’t want to get there first, I want to get it right!”  – Akio Toyoda

The e-Palette was conceptualized with the future and impending competition in mind. Realizing that AI and IoT have blurred the lines, Toyota developed what could be the future of utility vehicles to outpace whatever Google, Facebook, or Apple could come up with.
Jack Black, Toyota fan sums it quite succinctly, “so hip for a 60-year-old”.


Photos and Videos from Toyota



Google acquires patent for driverless robot car

Google doesn’t only help you find related topics for keywords you type in their query box. Now, it can tell your car where to drive.

Google has gotten hold of a patent for this technology earlier this week. Basically, it tells how a car can move from being human controlled to autonomous mode.

For example, a car drives to a certain location and basing on its visual indicator on a so called “landing strip”, the vehicle would transition to autonomous mode. This “landing strip” can be made up of bar codes or radio tags.

In Google’s corporate blog post a year ago, they said that the company hired autonomous vehicle engineers to improve on the state of driverless vehicles. Though they didn’t expound on the technology but software engineer Sebastian Thrun said that their goal is to “help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emission by fundamentally changing car use.”

Toyota’s hybrid, the Prius, have sensors and communications that sends huge amounts of data to Google’s data centers so that it can be analyzed and make driving decisions. Personally, I can’t wait to see my local Kia dealership have some of these for sale, I will be surely caught thinking ” the future is finally here”.

In the patent, the engineers detailed the method and the design of the devices.

Image Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET

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