Business / Tech

Honda and Hino to buy into Monet, SoftBank and Toyota's 'united Japan' mobility tech venture

AP, Kyodo

Automakers Honda and Hino are joining a partnership between SoftBank and Toyota to drive innovation in mobility services such as self-driving cars.

SoftBank Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., the nation’s top automaker, announced late last year a joint venture for mobility services, in what they called a “united Japan” effort to face global competition.

Honda Motor Co., Toyota’s rival, and Hino Motors, Toyota’s truck division, said Thursday that each company will acquire a 9.9 percent stake in the ¥2 billion Toyota-SoftBank venture, Monet Technologies Corp.

Each company will invest ¥250 million, according to the companies.

“This partnership will allow us to coordinate the vehicle data on passenger and object mobility that Hino collects from its trucks and buses and the data Honda obtains from its mobility services,” said Junichi Miyakawa, president and CEO of Monet, in a statement.

Toyota and SoftBank also announced Thursday a new consortium named after the tie-up, which includes partnerships with 88 other companies such as Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan and East Japan Railway Co. to enhance mobility services.

Philips Japan, a health technology company, developer Mitsubishi Estate and Yahoo Japan Corp. are among other big names that will also join the new Monet Consortium.

Technology experts say advances in artificial intelligence and sensors are opening up potential for autonomous driving and other mobility services, although safety concerns remain a major hurdle.

Honda President Takahiro Hachigo said collaborating with Monet will include efforts to implement regulatory changes.

“Honda wants to contribute to the revitalization of the mobility service industry in Japan and solve traffic-related problems facing Japanese society,” he said.

Hino Motors President Yoshio Shimo said the move was part of the truck-maker’s ongoing efforts to transport goods and people.

“Through this partnership, we will strive to achieve our vision of creating a world where people and goods move freely, safely and efficiently,” said Shimo.

Under the new arrangement, SoftBank will own 40.2 percent in Monet Technologies while Toyota will own 39.8 percent.

In announcing the partnership in October, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said the move reflected the company’s desire to change and keep up with global competition in autonomous vehicles and other technology.

Toyota is widely seen as a traditional Japan Inc. company, while SoftBank, led by Masayoshi Son, has a reputation for aggressively investing in less traditional brands — such as car-sharing companies Uber, Didi Chuxing and Grab, as well as Arm, a leader in the “internet of things.”