clock menu more-arrow no yes

Toyota has made a strategic investment in Uber

It likely has to do with self-driving technology.

Uber is testing its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh.
Uber

Uber has confirmed to Recode that Toyota has made a strategic investment in the company. The company would not disclose the amount.

As part of its investment, Toyota will be partnering with Uber to create a leasing program for new Uber drivers. Car buyers can lease their vehicles through Toyota Financial Services and drive for Uber to cover the payments. The program is an extension of an existing program Uber has already established called the Vehicle Solutions program.

The companies expect to explore additional mobility services as part of the partnership and plan to collaborate on the companies' research efforts. While the initial iteration of the partnership will largely be focused on car-sharing, it's clear the long-term goal is for the respective companies' autonomous technology efforts to get together. As part of the collaboration, Toyota Motor Corporation will sell a fleet of Lexus and Toyota cars to Uber.

The news comes just days after Uber announced that it was testing its self-driving cars on the streets of Pittsburgh, the home of the company's Carnegie Mellon-based research and development center.

For Uber, this partnership is simply another example of the company's push into autonomous technology. With two advanced technology centers, one at Carnegie Mellon and another at the University of Arizona, the ride-hailing company has been clear about its ambitions to create a network of on-demand self-driving cars.

But for Toyota, the move is the latest in a series of late-to-the-game investments in autonomous technology. It wasn't always a priority for the company. In fact, in 2014, the company's deputy chief safety technology officer said the company wouldn't be developing driverless technology at all.

But in late 2015, the company got serious about self-driving cars. In September 2015, Toyota began to build out research and development centers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford. In March 2016, the company hired the 16-person staff of MIT's Jaybridge Robotics to help it with its artificial intelligence efforts. At last count, Toyota filed 1,400 self-driving patents. The company, along with Uber, even put in a bid to pilot a self-driving car-hail program with the Singapore government.

The partnership is a necessary step for Uber which has no plans to actually manufacture and mass produce vehicles. Instead, it's likely the company will integrate its autonomous technology into the production of these Toyota and Lexus vehicles at the very least for testing and at most for deployment. The collaboration between Uber and Toyota also brings together autonomous research and development from Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Stanford.

It's a move that Uber's primary U.S. competitor Lyft made earlier this year with its partnership and strategic investment from General Motors. Lyft CEO and co-founder John Zimmer said that he expects the first iteration of the network of semi-autonomous cars to hit the roads at the end of 2016.

Read this next: The complete timeline to self-driving cars

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

Sign up for the newsletter The Weeds

Understand how policy impacts people. Delivered Fridays.