Yahoo Japan invests $4.4m in Softbank-backed SB Drive

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Screencap of SB Drive promotional video.

Yahoo Japan is investing JPY 490 million ($4.4 million) in SB Drive, an autonomous bus unit within the SoftBank Group.

Yahoo Japan will be acquiring about 50 per cent, being the top shareholder after SoftBank.

This latest funding round will see Yahoo JAPAN invest approximately JPY 490 million, with SoftBank infusing another JPY 190 million. This makes it a cumulative investment of approximately JPY 510 million ($4.59 million

SB Drive functions by applying big-data and mapping technologies.

SB Drive was launched in April 2016 as a joint venture (JV) with Advanced Smart Mobility, a company researching and developing automated driving technologies. SB Drive hopes to begin fully driverless bus testing in 2018 and is targeting commercialization in 2020.

According to details in a SoftBank press release, SoftBank will hold 51.1 per cent while Yahoo Japan will own 48.6 per cent and Advanced Smart Mobility, 0.3 per cent.

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 community public transportation and large truck convoy-based trunk line freight transportation systems that utilise 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 H2 of FY2018, SB Drive is planning to conduct fully autonomous driving trials on public roads.

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