Softbank, Toyota Reveal Vision on Future Mobility
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Softbank, Toyota Reveal Vision on Future Mobility

    NHK World
    Senior Correspondent
    Softbank and Toyota are forming a joint venture to develop businesses that will use self-driving electric vehicles, such as meal delivery services that prepare food on the road, hospital shuttles offering onboard medical examinations, and mobile offices. The vehicles will first roll out in Japan, and there are plans to expand overseas.

    Softbank Group CEO Masayoshi Son and Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda made a rare joint appearance to announce the launch. They spoke about what they expect to come in the world of transportation.

    Background

    It was Toyota that first approached Softbank with the idea of a partnership. Talks started about 6 months ago, and when Son heard of the plan, his initial reaction was pure surprise. He said his first thought was: "What? No kidding?" But then, he says he felt that "the day had finally come." Meanwhile, Toyoda described the matchup as "indispensable" to transform his company from a manufacturer into a mobility services provider. The leaders of Japan's two biggest companies now view the tie-up as vital, given that the auto industry is going through changes Toyoda has called "once-in-a century."

    Auto Industry Accelerates Shift

    With consumers turning away from the idea of buying their own car and shifting towards sharing, automakers are pressed to design vehicles for multiple users. Ride-hailing firms plan to use artificial intelligence to pinpoint where demand for taxis will come from, and experts say that in the future, their fleets will likely be made mainly of autonomous cars.

    Carmakers around the world are joining hands with IT firms to speed up technological development. Just one day prior to Softbank and Toyota's announcement, Honda Motor revealed that it's working with General Motors to develop driverless ride-sharing vehicles.

    The Future

    Son and Toyoda share a seemingly impossible goal, and that is to reduce the number of traffic accidents to zero. Son seems confident that technology will help achieve that. He says that AI will predict accidents and prevent them from happening, and that future cars would become a "chunk of semiconductors."