Uber, Toyota To Strengthen Their Self-Driving Partnership

Uber and Toyota are looking to strengthen their self-driving car partnership, with their top officials recently meeting to discuss such efforts. Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi revealed he held talks with Toyota President Akio Toyoda and Executive Vice President Shigeki Tomoyama earlier this week as part of his first Asian tour in the role of the ride-hailing startup's head. No details of the meeting were disclosed, though at least some talks likely revolved around the duo's recently established collaboration aimed at commercializing e-Palette, Toyota's concept of on-demand cities based on autonomous driving technologies.

The Japanese automaker officially announced e-Palette at this year's Consumer Electronics Show held in early January, naming Uber as one of the partners helping it develop and optimize the platform for large-scale use. Uber and Toyota have been pursuing driverless vehicles on their own for years now, with both seeing them as a potential growth engine that could ensure their businesses are sustainable in the long term. Toyota also has a stake in Uber it bought in 2016, though the size of it remains undisclosed to this date. The San Francisco, California-based startup was recently said to be considering selling its Southeast Asia business to rival Grab but Mr. Khosrowshahi indirectly denied those reports during his Asian tour, saying the company has no intentions of scaling down its investments in the region.

According to recent projections from Wall Street analysts, Uber's endgame isn't to replace the taxi industry as it originally intended but is instead now seeking to challenge the very concept of personal car ownership. By densifying its network of drivers, promoting carpooling, and transitioning to electric vehicles, the company is looking to reduce its operating expenses and pass on many of those savings to consumers, with its biggest tool to do so being autonomous driving technologies that would eliminate the need for drivers. Ultimately, Uber is hoping to make its service more affordable than owning a car, hence positioning itself as the ultimate provider of mobility solutions for both private and enterprise clients, some industry watchers believe. The company is presently targeting an IPO in 2019 and its core business may become profitable as soon as 2021, according to Mr. Khosrowshahi's recent statements.

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