Honda Motor Co. said Wednesday it will collaborate with General Motors Co. and its unit Cruise LLC on launching a service using self-driving vehicles in Japan and start feasibility tests later this year.
Automakers are scrambling to develop next-generation autonomous vehicles, with IT firms also joining the race. Honda and major U.S. carmaker GM agreed in 2018 to join hands in developing self-driving vehicles.
Honda said it plans to start a mobility business using the Cruise Origin, a self-driving vehicle being developed by the three companies, with an eye to offering new transportation solutions in potential collaboration with local governments in Japan.
“Through active collaboration with partners who share the same interests and aspirations, Honda will continue to accelerate the realization of our autonomous vehicle MaaS business in Japan,” Honda President Takahiro Hachigo said in a statement, referring to its mobility service.
Honda and Cruise will start conducting experiments in Japan using Cruise’s test vehicle this year, Honda said.
Cruise and GM said Tuesday they would partner with Microsoft Corp. to accelerate the commercialization of driverless vehicles.
Microsoft will join GM, Honda Motor Co. and institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2 billion (¥207.5 billion) in Cruise, bringing the post-money valuation of the San Francisco-based startup to $30 billion.
Waymo, the self-driving company majority owned by Alphabet, is valued at just over $30 billion, according to investor website PitchBook.
Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based self-driving startup backed by Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG, is valued at $7.25 billion.
Cruise will use Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, for its self-driving vehicles.
Other automakers, including Volkswagen and Toyota Motor Corp., have used Azure for operations and services other than self-driving.
GM will work with Microsoft to accelerate the automaker’s digitization initiatives, including artificial intelligence, and explore opportunities to streamline operations across digital supply chains and bring new mobility services, including robotaxis and last-mile deliveries, to customers faster.
Honda and GM have been deepening their partnership. The two have been jointly developing electric cars while seeking to share vehicle platforms and cooperate in research and development in North America.
In Japan, there have been experiments to put self-driving buses to practical use, including one by East Japan Railway Co.
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