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Toyota, BMW raise the ante in driverless transit venture

Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp. is one of the few international business entities that have successfully tapped the US market. The company often faces stringent competition from BMW, which enjoys a similar distinction with its strong presence in America.

There is no surprise they have matching views when it comes to innovation and project funding. In what appears to be a strategy to stay relevant in the fast-changing automobile industry, the investment arms of Toyota and BMW have joined a group of investors to co-lead an $11.5-million seed investment in a start-up that develops driverless shuttles.

The recent advancements in self-driving technology, indicating that driverless transportation is going to be reality in the near future, has prompted most of the leading automakers to think out of the box and look beyond the conventional business model.

Picture Courtesy: Automobile Italia

The start-up, May Mobility, operates self-driving electric shuttles connecting centers of activity, such as educational institutions and business hubs, with other parts of the city where it operates. The company, the first player in the autonomous transit vehicle segment, vows to ensure utmost safety and efficiency in its service which has the potential to become a game-changer for the transportation industry. With commercial operations expected to commence later this year, a ride-sharing service is also on the cards in the near term.

“Communities everywhere are facing transportation challenges, and we’re ready to solve them with our fully-managed, right-sized microtransit service. Our new investors will allow us to deploy to more communities even more quickly, and to grow our engineering and operations capability to deliver the best customer experience,” said May Mobility COO Alisyn Malek.

The seed amount will primarily be used for expansion of the one-year-old service to more cities, as well as for funding route supervision and hiring of technicians.

May Mobility operates self-driving electric shuttles connecting major centers of activity in the city where it operates

For Toyota, which is developing its own self-driving vehicles, the modest investment in May Mobility is part of enhancing support for tech start-up, as it looks to embrace the latest technology in the automobile industry and avoid being left out. The main investment targets are early-stage tech entities whose activities are rooted in artificial intelligence, robotics and big data.

BMW has also been making great strides in its driverless car mission, and the first commercial model is expected to hit the road in 2021. In the race to launch self-driving transit vehicles, the other leading contenders are Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors.

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