A mere two months after acquiring Uber’s self-driving car unit (and a $400 million investment from the company), autonomous vehicle startup Aurora is partnering with the world’s largest automaker. On Tuesday, the company announced a partnership with Toyota and Japanese auto parts supplier Denso (via The Verge) that will see the three firms work together to develop and test vehicles with Aurora’s Driver technology. They’ll first integrate the hardware and software into a fleet of Toyota Sienna minivans before deploying it within a full-scale robotaxai service.
“By the end of 2021, we expect to have designed, built and begun testing an initial fleet of these Siennas near our areas of development,” the company said. “It brings our companies together to lay the groundwork for the mass-production, launch and support of these vehicles with Toyota on ride-hailing networks, including Uber’s, over the next few years.”
Today’s announcement is an important one for Toyota in so far as the company hasn’t had a lot to show yet for all of the effort it has put into developing its own autonomous vehicle technologies. At the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the automaker said it would allow people to ride cars equipped with its Level-4 “Chauffeur” technology, among other self-driving vehicle projects. Those demos have had to wait thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. We also have yet to see Toyota integrate “Guardian,” the driver-assist system it announced alongside Chauffeur in 2019, into a production vehicle. At the time, that was something Toyota said it would offer soon and to any automaker that wanted to take advantage of it.