Autonomous vehicle company Aurora has shown images of a self-driving Toyota Sienna that it says was designed specifically for mass transit.
The company posted a blog detailing the vehicle, which is based on the Toyota (NYSE:MT) Sienna Autono-MaaS (S-AM) mass-produced prototype. The S-AM is Toyota’s hybrid-electric powertrain. Aurora said testing will be done over the next six months and “we will mature this initial development fleet in Pittsburgh, Dallas, the Bay Area and other locations.”
“We believe the best and fastest way to create purpose-driven design is through a constant feedback loop with vehicle platform partners and networks. Thanks to our close partnership with Uberthe Aurora-powered Toyota S-AM benefits from the extensive carpooling experience it accelerates our path to commercialization,” the company wrote.
In July, Aurora introduced its carpool vision, which includes a 10-year agreement with Uber to access the data. The vision not only includes the vehicles, but also the development of tools to optimize the positioning of the fleet, including pick-up and drop-off areas.
The Toyota S-AM is equipped with the Aurora Driver system, which integrates hardware, software, infrastructure and development tools to create an autonomous vehicle. The Aurora Driver system was designed to work for both commercial trucks and automobiles.
“As we progress through our development program with Toyota, we will expand the testing of this prototype, refine it with drivers, validate it in accordance with our Security Case Framework and Toyota’s own safety standards, and we expect to launch it on large-scale transportation networks,” Aurora said.
Aurora said the cars will be equipped with dynamic temperature controls that will allow drivers to set their preferred in-vehicle temperature through the transportation app so the car arrives for pickup at the correct temperature.
Aurora estimates that a hybrid carpool network of human-driven and self-driving rides could bring travel costs down to as low as $1 per mile.
In December 2020, Aurora purchased Uber ATG (NYSE: UBER), the company’s self-driving unit. In exchange, Uber agreed to invest $400 million in Aurora for a 26% stake. Aurora was already working on building self-driving trucks.
Read: Ford will launch self-driving cars on the Lyft network
Read: PACCAR and Volvo invest in autonomous tech company Aurora’s $10.6 billion SPAC
In July, special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Reinvent Technology Partners Y announced that it would take Aurora public in a deal valuing the standalone company at $10.6 billion. Global truck manufacturers PACCAR (NASDAQ: PCAR) and Volvo Group are among the investors. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) also supports Aurora.
The SPAC Reinventing (NASDAQ: RTPY) includes $977.5 million that Reinvent raised in an initial public offering to create the front company that will become Aurora Innovation Inc., a $1 billion private equity investment (PIPE), and approximately $600 million in cash dollars in Aurora’s books.
Aurora is expected to receive approximately $2.5 billion upon closing of the business combination in the second half of this year.
Aurora’s announcement comes almost two months to the day after Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) announced that it will start testing autonomous vehicles on its ride-sharing network by the end of this year.
The agreement requires Argo and Ford (NYSE:F) to deploy self-driving cars with safety drivers on the Lyft network. Lyft users in vehicle operating areas will be able to choose a Ford self-driving vehicle if available. The initial deployments will be used to address operational issues as the three companies finalize an agreement that will place more than 1,000 autonomous vehicles in Lyft’s network over the next five years.
Argo AI designs self-driving technology and has tested its technology in Washington, Miami and Austin, Texas. The company is based in Pittsburgh. Ford will own the vehicles and Argo will provide the drivers.
The Lyft and Argo deal is similar in nature to the Aurora-Uber deal. Lyft and Argo will collaborate on sharing data, including market and safety data, to define where self-driving technology makes the most sense for the consumer. Additionally, Argo will use Lyft’s anonymized service and fleet data to help it overcome the challenges it says other autonomous vehicle companies face when building a sustainable business.
As part of the agreement, Lyft will receive 2.5% of Argo AI common stock under a license and data access agreement.
Like Uber, Lyft had built an autonomous division before selling it to Woven Planet Backgroundsa Toyota Motor Corp. company, for $550 million in cash on April 6.
Lyft has already taken more than 100,000 paid AV rides since 2018, Green previously said. The company works with Motional, a Aptiv-Hyundai joint ventureon an audiovisual project, and he plans to deploy in a completely autonomous way emotional vehicles in several cities by 2023.
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