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Toyota invests in Uber; Volkswagen backs Gett

Toyota invests in Uber; Volkswagen backs Gett
Uber will partner with Toyota for a vehicle-leasing program. (Karl Mondon / Tribune News Service)

Toyota Motor Corp. announced Tuesday a partnership with Uber Technologies in which the Japanese automaker will invest an undisclosed sum in the ride-hailing company and establish a car-leasing option for Uber drivers.

Through the partnership, the two companies will "explore collaboration ... in the world of ridesharing in countries where ridesharing is expanding, taking various factors into account such as regulations, business conditions, and customer needs," Toyota said in a prepared statement.

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The partnership will also expand on Uber's vehicle-leasing program, which offers cars to its drivers through Enterprise Holdings Inc. -- the parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo Rent a Car and National Car Rental.

The partnership follows a growing number of investments by traditional auto manufacturers in on-demand transportation services.

German carmaker Volkswagen announced Tuesday a $300-million investment in Uber rival Gett, a service that is available in 60 cities and connects passengers with taxis and black town cars. Gett Chief Executive Shanhar Waiser said in a prepared statement that the partnership "provides the Volkswagen Group with the technology to expand beyond car ownership to on-demand mobility for consumers."

General Motors made a $500-million investment in Lyft earlier this year and also took a seat on the ride-hailing company's board of directors. The two companies announced plans to build an Autonomous On-Demand Network that will leverage GM's autonomous vehicle development and Lyft's ride-matching, routing and payments software.

It is unclear whether Toyota's partnership with Uber will involve autonomous vehicle development. Uber itself has already made investments in developing self-driving cars. The company opened its Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh last year, snapping up engineering talent from Carnegie Mellon University.

The company announced last week that a test car from that facility, a hybrid Ford Fusion, will soon be driving through the streets of Pittsburgh -- with a driver behind the wheel -- collecting mapping data and testing its self-driving capabilities.

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Twitter: @traceylien

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