If nothing else, the idea of self-diving cars attracts money.
Toyota, Softbank and Denso just announced they’re investing $1 billion in Uber Technologies’ Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) to accelerate the development and commercialization of automated ridesharing services.
Toyota and Denso are putting up $667 million and Softbank $333 million. This values the new Uber ATG entity at $7.25 billion.
Last summer, Toyota invested $500 million in Uber and said it will invest an additional $300 million over the next three years to help cover the costs of designing and developing the vehicles.
At CES last year, Toyota president Akio Toyoda detailed a major transformation Toyota was undergoing. Toyoda introduced his vision for future mobility, comprising self-driving, all-electric, ride-sharing vehicles using Toyota’s new concept vehicle.
However, at CES earlier this year, Toyota seemed to be shifting its position on self-driving cars with an emphasis now on creating technologies to help people drive better rather than having cars drive themselves.
There are other market cautions on the speed of self-driving cars hitting the street in any kind of significant numbers anytime soon.
In a recent speech, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said: “We’ve overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles.”
In March, Ford announced it plans to invest $900 million in its southeast Michigan footprint, as part of a $11.1 billion investment in global electric vehicles. The expansion includes the first autonomous vehicles being produced starting in 2021. No word on if that is on track.
Uber also is taking more of an eyes-open approach to autonomous vehicles.
In its IPO filing last week, Uber showed it doesn’t appear to have any high expectation for self-driving vehicles dominating roads any time soon.
“We believe that there will be a long period of hybrid autonomy, in which autonomous vehicles will be deployed gradually against specific use cases while drivers continue to serve most consumer demand,” states the prospectus.
In the new funding announcement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi states: “The development of automated driving technology will transform transportation as we know it, making our streets safer and our cities more livable.”
The other side, current consumer demand for self-driving cars is questionable.
A recent survey by Reuters/Ipsos found that half of U.S. adults say fully automated or self-driving vehicles are more dangerous than traditional cars driven by people.
The majority (63%) said they would not pay more for self-driving features and 41% said they would not pay more than $2,000.
An annual AAA study found that seven in 10 (71%) consumers would be afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle. A similar study a year earlier found similar results, with 73% of American drivers too afraid to ride in a fully autonomous vehicle.
Meanwhile, the money for developing self-driving vehicles continues to flow.