Hyundai seals $1.5bn robotics deal

Hyundai seals $1.5bn robotics deal article image

Hyundai has agreed to buy a controlling stake in US-based robot-maker Boston Dynamics in a deal reportedly worth more than A$1.5 billion.

According to the South Korean carmaker, securing the pioneering tech company will benefit its business by allowing it to expand automation in its factories further, while enhancing its existing autonomous driving tech.

Buying Boston Dynamics, a company owned by SoftBank robotics, will also help Hyundai branch out into making drones and robots and help it broaden its mobility vehicle offerings.

With an 80 per cent stake in Boston Dynamics, Hyundai hopes to reduce its reliance on traditional car manufacturing processes, with robots set to account for up to 20 per cent of its business.

No roadmap for the Hyundai Motor Group diversification has been given but it does plan to have flying cars account for 30 per cent of its business in the future.

Boston Dynamics was bought by Google in 2013 and sold to SoftBank in 2017.

It is best known for Spot, its four-legged robot dog that can climb stairs.

According to the company, Spot can "inspect dangerous, inaccessible, and remote environments, automate data collection on your site, carry payloads on unstructured or unknown terrain."

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Spot has also been used to evaluate coronavirus patients in Boston, herd sheep in New Zealand, and give social distancing reminders in Singapore.

However, the company has struggled to commercialise its pioneering research and in March it announced an annual loss of A$135 million.

With the acquisition, Hyundai is expected to turn Boston Dynamics into a profitable robo-maker.

Hyundai has long been a strong advocate for robotics.

The company has developed a wearable robot to reduce fatigue for factory workers and ran pilot programs at its US plants.

In January, Hyundai announced it would partner with Uber to develop air taxis.

However, those plans are now in disarray after the ride-share firm sold its loss-making aviation arm to Joey Aviation – a electric aircraft start-up.

The latest purchase follows Ford’s decision to partner with Agility Robotics in 2019.



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