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SoftBank’s self-driving bus project pulls in $4.6M to push for 2020 commercialization



SoftBank is doubling down on its self-driving bus project in Japan. SB Drive, an entity created last year to develop autonomous vehicle technology for public transport, just got a cash windfall after Yahoo Japan led a 510 million JPY ($4.6 million) investment.

Yahoo Japan, the Yahoo affiliate which is one of Japan’s most influential tech companies, provided 490 million JPY ($4.4 million) with SoftBank itself ponying up the remaining capital to retain a majority share. Post-investment, SoftBank’s stake in the business stands at 51.1 percent, Yahoo Japan owns a 48.6 percent share, and founding partner Advanced Mobility retains 0.3 percent.

SB Drive is a self-driving project with a focus on making public transportation options, particularly in more rural areas, smarter. The company is aiming to conduct tests on public roads next year with the eventual target of a commercial service by 2020.

Already, it said, it has run “social trials” and testing using fixed-route public buses and freighter trucks that make use of autonomous driving tech. SB Drive has also struck partnerships with four municipalities in Japan.