Japan’s NTT To Invest In US Driverless Car Start-Up

Cruise Origin. Image credit: Cruise

Japan telco NTT to invest in Toyota-backed US driverless car start-up May Mobility, citing ‘momentum’ around the tech

Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) telecommunications operator confirmed it plans to invest some 10 billion yen ($66.9m, £54m) in US-based driverless car start-up May Mobility that is backed by Toyota Motor.

NTT said it would test May Mobility’s driverless vehicle technology with Toyota, beginning with autonomous buses and taxis as early as 2025.

The company told Reuters it saw growing momentum behind self-driving technology in Japan.

The Nikkei newspaper first reported NTT’s planned investment in the Michigan-based start-up, which plans to ready its technology in about two years’ time.

Image credit: Cruise driverless
Image credit: Cruise

Driverless development

May Mobility last year attracted investment from Tokio Marine, which joined a $111m funding round, while a Toyota-linked venture capital unit co-led a seed investment in the start-up in 2018.

Honda last month said it planned to set up a joint venture with General Motors and its automated car firm Cruise.

Honda said at the time it wanted to begin a driverless ride service in Japan in 2026.

Cruise suspended all driverless vehicle operations in the US in late October after the state of California ordered the company’s driverless taxis removed from San Francisco streets after a pedestrian was dragged under a Cruise vehicle’s wheels in an accident.

Safety concerns

The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) cited safety concerns.

It said the Cruise vehicle had struck a pedestrian during the course of a hard-braking manoeuvre, and then, after coming to a complete stop, subsequently attempted to pull over to the side of the road, dragging the pedestrian about 20 feet.

Cruise said the scenario had not been encountered before and was due to an unexpected confluence of factors.