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The automaker invested US$394 million alongside a group including Intel Capital and JetBlue Technology Ventures. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The investment makes Joby the best-funded startup in this category—it’s brought in US$720 million so far—and also makes 2020 the record year for deals in the flying-taxi space. Last month, Joby announced its taxis would be bookable in at least two cities via the Uber app. Toyota is now going to help Joby build a fleet for ride-hailing. Joby is trying to build a product that can compete with helicopters for short trips in urban areas. So far, the firm can hit speeds of 200 miles per hour and fly 150 miles on one charge. In addition to competition with helicopters, Joby will need to convince federal regulators that its service is safe, and fend off a number of other firms with their own prominent backers. Hyundai is also working with Uber; Kitty Hawk, backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, is working with Boeing; and Airbus has its own air-taxi arm.

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The pilot—which will use Lexus RX cars and Pony.ai’s autonomous driving system—will begin in September on public roads in Beijing and Shanghai. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are a burgeoning industry in China—according to a McKinsey report, the country will have a US$500-billion AV market by 2030, the world’s largest. But they lag behind American competitors, both in terms of miles tested and how often a safety driver needs to take over—California-based Waymo was the first company to start testing vehicles without safety drivers in July. Teaming up with the world’s largest automaker by market cap will give Pony.ai—which raised US$300 million as of April and has a valuation of US$1.7 billion—access to Toyota’s vehicles. This may help it catch up to its American competitors, as well as its Beijing-based rival Baidu, which currently leads the country in terms of miles tested for autonomous vehicles. For Toyota, partnering with China’s leading AV startup is the second major deal it’s inked with a Chinese automotive tech firm in recent weeks—the company also invested US$600 million into Didi Chuxing, the Beijing-based ride-hailing company, in July.

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Zoox CEO Aicha Evans will continue to lead the California-based company, which designs self-driving ride-hail vehicles. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Amazon is paying over US$1 billion for Zoox, but it will cost billions more to take the company’s vehicles from prototype to mass market. Alphabet, Apple, Toyota and GM are among the deep-pocketed investors that have already poured a combined US$18 billion into the self-driving space so far, according to estimates compiled by The Information. Zoox has tested its vehicles in San Francisco and Las Vegas, but delayed the launch of a robotaxi service due to software problems. Amazon’s move into self-driving passenger vehicles follows an investment it made in July 2019 into Aurora, a firm developing autonomous trucks for long-haul deliveries.

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The round, led by Kensington Private Equity Fund, will help the Kitchener, Ont.-based robotics firm scale its operations. Otto, a division of Clearpath Robotics, uses pallet-sized autonomous vehicles to transport goods to assembly lines on factory floors. Its customers include Toyota, GE and Nestlé. Other investors in the round included Inovia Capital, BMO Capital Partners and Export Development Canada, which participated through the fund-matching program it launched in response to the pandemic. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The round brings Otto’s financing to US$70 million since 2015, according to Crunchbase. It comes as factories globally rethink their operations with new considerations around physical distancing. The virus has delivered a blow to global manufacturing, and resuming operations is largely contingent on limiting the spread of the virus. The meat-processing sector, which COVID-19 has hit particularly hard, is considering ways to increase automation and limit human contact in facilities. While increased robotics may help stimulate manufacturing in the short -term, it raises questions about prolonged unemployment among the workforce whose positions may become redundant or even deemed a liability.

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The German car manufacturer will invest €1 billion (US$1.11 billion) and take a 75 per cent stake in JAC Motors by acquiring half its parent firm, state-owned Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group. It will invest another €1.1 billion in Chinese battery producer Guoxuan High-Tech, representing a 26 per cent stake in the firm. (The Wall Street Journal)

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Talking point: The investment is another endorsement of China’s potential as a massive market for electric vehicles, and signals new competition to electric-vehicle rivals in China. The country is a priority market for Tesla, which began delivering vehicles from its new Shanghai plant in December 2019, while General Motors and Toyota also aim to expand sales in China. The move could also win favour with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has cooled on the custom of giving the auto sector preferential relief funding in her strategy to rebuild the economy. Earlier this month, she told car companies they would have to make their case for aid, like any other firm.

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The Vancouver-based character simulation software firm’s latest round was led by Grishin Robotics, Toyota AI Ventures and Millennium Technology Value Partners’ New Horizons Fund. (BetaKit)

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Talking point: The company plans to use the funds to make new hires and further develop its digital character generator. The company’s software has been used by over 100 studios in productions like “Game of Thrones” and Captain Marvel, and co-founder James Jacobs has been recognized by the Academy Awards.