SoftBank-controlled Yahoo Japan has plunged into the self-driving sector by making an 490 million yen ($4.4 million) investment in SB Drive, a SoftBank JV developing “smart mobility” technologies for self-driving vehicles.
Yahoo Japan’s investment in SB Drive gives it a 48.6% stake in the company. SoftBank, which invested an additional 190 million yen in SB Drive the same day (bringing its total investment to around 510 million yen), maintains a controlling stake at 51.1%. The Yahoo Japan and SoftBank investments put SB Drive’s capitalization at approximately 1 billion yen.
SB Drive was established in April 2016 as a joint venture between SoftBank and Advanced Smart Mobility, which was engaged in R&D for automated driving technologies. Under a cooperative framework with SoftBank, Advanced Smart Mobility, Yahoo Japan and others, SB Drive has been conducting social trials and testing the commercial viability of fixed-route bus type public transportation and large truck convoy-based trunk line freight transportation systems that utilize self-driving technologies.
Currently SB Drive has smart mobility partnership agreements with four municipalities in Japan, including Kitakyushu City and Yazu Town in Tottori Prefecture. In the latter half of fiscal 2018, SB Drive is planning to conduct fully autonomous driving trials on public roads.
The deal marks Yahoo Japan’s full-fledged entry into the self-driving sector. By linking self-driving with it regional and transportation services like Yahoo! Maps, and by utilizing big data from self-driving and Yahoo Japan users, Yahoo Japan will pursue its “Update Mobility” goal that aims to address the regional and transport issues of customers.