Yesterday, Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Uber Technologies, posted a photo on Twitter of him and Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda and executive vice president Shigeki Tomoyama at the carmaker’s headquarters. The Uber chief executive is smiling and holding a black baseball bat from local hero Ichiro Suzuki, while Toyoda laughs at his side.
“Having fun with Akio-San and Tomoyama-San @ToyotaMotorCorp HQ,” he wrote. “Great discussions about growing our #autonomous partnership and lessons 4 me in building a great culture. And yep, those are Ichiro’s bats.”
The cheerful snapshot encapsulates a partnership Khosrowshahi hopes to extend to other carmakers. It’s part of a plan to get autonomous vehicles in the Uber network on actual streets within a year, he told reporters during a media round table in New Delhi, the present leg of an Asian tour that’s taken in Japan.
Uber and Toyota have given few details of their collaboration on autonomous technology, though both have been active in the field separately. Toyota bought a stake in Uber in 2016, without disclosing the size or the reason for the investment.
Khosrowshahi said Uber was committed to self-driving vehicles for commercial profit.
“In less than a year, autonomous vehicles will be on the road in our network,” he said in Delhi. “Much sooner than you would expect.”
Khosrowshahi is looking to move past an embarrassing legal battle with Alphabet, which alleged that Uber stole autonomous driving secrets. Having settled that case this month for about $245million (R2.86billion), Khosrowshahi’s meeting with Toyoda shows his commitment to continue developing the technology with partners. For Toyota, closer ties could help it keep up with rivals like Nissan, which is working on its own autonomous solution.
“We have a budding partnership with Toyota,” Khosrowshahi said on Tuesday.
“We have to make sure we have access to leading autonomous technology I do believe we can develop our own autonomous technology, and at the same time partner with other players in autonomous technology.”
During his Asian trip, Khosrowshahi made it clear the ride-hailing company isn’t scaling back its ambitions in certain regional markets, despite speculation of a retreat.