Jul 3, 2019

Japan's 5 Giant Automakers Join Together To Develop Self-Driving Vehicles

Project Monet is a big project that aims to make automatic cars that cater to fleet owners and can convert between cargo and passenger mode. Hopefully, this initiative reduces driver error and ensures a safer riding experience.

A collaboration between five of the biggest automakers aims to develop self-driving vehicles. Set up under SoftBank and Toyota's lead, the project dubbed as Project Monet is aimed towards developing automated cars for ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber.

The other automakers in this collaboration are Daihatsu, Suzuki, Isuzu, Mazda and Subaru, all of which placed a sizeable JPY 57.1 million investment each (around PHP 27 million) which gives them a 2 percent share in Project Monet, while the lead proponents SoftBank and Toyota each invested USD 26.6 million (around PHP 1.3 billion), which gives them a 35 percent share each in the project. There are two additional investors, Hino and Honda who each own a 10 percent stake, but it's not immediately clear what their roles are in the project.

Project Monet aims to offer self-driving cars in Japan and Southeast Asia by next year, with the Toyota e-Palette being the first car that they will offer. The e-Palette was first unveiled during the CES 2018 trade show in Las Vegas and featured versatility to switch between cargo delivery and passenger mode, which would make it a good investment since the vehicle can easily be reconfigured depending on the need. Toyota did mention during CES 2018 that the e-Palette at the time was just a concept car and not the actual production version.

Project Monet is aimed towards providing commercial fleets with automated driving solutions and is separate from Toyota's automated vehicles that they plan to offer to the retail market. Self-driving cars for ridesharing services are a perfect investment for operators since it allows the cars to stay on the road longer compared to human drivers, plus it is subject to fewer errors. Both Toyota and SoftBank have sizeable investments in ridesharing service companies, with the former heavily investing in Uber while the latter is invested also in Uber and in the Chinese ridesharing company Didi Chuxing.

By joining forces with other carmakers, Toyota is able to share its expertise with its partners, allowing the collaboration to develop new cars with better technology. Subaru and Toyota have worked before on the 86 and BRZ sports cars, while Toyota also collaborated with Mazda in developing electricity-driven powertrains at their facility in the US, while the current Yaris is based on the Mazda 2's form factor.

Since self-driving cars require a lot of time and investment in resources because it's new technology, collaborations between the car giants might be able to speed up development. One thing is for certain - we will be seeing more automated cars in the future, but are we ready for them?