SB Drive, SoftBank’s self-driving bus division has gotten a significant boost today. As announced via an official blog post, SB Drive has received a massive $4.6 million (510 million yen) capital infusion led by Yahoo Japan. SoftBank Corp has also made an investment in the same to further increase its stake in this mobility business of the future.
Yahoo Japan, the Yahoo affiliate has pumped about 490 million yen, while the additional 190 million yen from SoftBank earmarks the complete investment into this division. This capital has been brought in through the third-party allocation of shares. Post investment, SoftBank’s share in the said division stands at 51.1 percent, Yahoo Japan owns 48.6 percent and its founding partner Advanced Smart Mobility (ASM) holds a measly 0.3 percent.
SB Drive is a joint venture between SoftBank and Advanced Smart Mobility, which aims to introduce autonomous technologies into logistics and public transportation systems. It is looking to extend self-driving capabilities to the complete society by employing their fresh fundraise into further research and development of the technology.
The company plans to conduct on-road public trials by the second half of fiscal 2018, with plans to commercialize the service by 2020. It will lay immense focus on extending the reach of its self-driving tech to public transportation systems, especially in rural areas of the country. It has already started working towards the same and struck smart mobility partnerships with four municipalities in Japan. It is also looking to help out the aged population get around. This has been described in the blog post as under:
SB Drive has been conducting social trials and testing the commercial viability of fixed-route bus type community public transportation and large truck convoy-based trunk line freight transportation systems that utilize self-driving technologies.
The three aforementioned tech giants, including Yahoo Japan, have already been working on this self-driving project for about a year. Previously, Yahoo Japan was only a strategic partner but it is now committing itself to the autonomous revolution with investment. It will now be linking SB Drive’s autonomous services into its mapping service — Yahoo Maps. The company will also utilize big data tech to analyze data collected from the self-driving buses and its own services to help plan future bus routes and deployment.
While most technology or automotive giants working on autonomous technologies are gunning for the consumer, SoftBank is looking to ease the problems within Japan’s transportation system. SD Drive is aiming to make it intuitive and simpler for the population to be able to hitch a ride across rural towns. You can better understand the functioning of their self-driving buses in the video attached here:
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