Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) and SoftBank have agreed on the basic terms of the deal, under which HMG will own 80% of Boston Dynamics and SoftBank, through one of its affiliates, will retain 20%. HMG chairman Eyisun Chang will own 20% of Boston Dynamics, while Hyundai Mobis and Hyundai Glovis will jointly own 60%. HMG expects to use robotic technology to bring automation to its car factories, as well as to develop autonomous vehicles such as self-driving cars, drones and delivery robots.
Boston Dynamics, which was spun off from MIT in 1992, was sold to Google in 2013. In 2017, SoftBank became the owner of Boston Dynamics. The company’s products include the Spot robot dog, the Cheetah, BigDog and LittleDog four-legged robots, as well as RiSE, PETMAN, Atlas and Handle robots. The company also introduced the Pick system for unloading warehouses based on computer vision. Boston Dynamics’ customers include Ford, which rented two Spot robots in July.
Hyundai Motor Group is a group of companies active in the automotive, steel, construction, machine tool, logistics and other industries. HMG employs around 16,000 people. As noted in HMG press release, Hyundai Motor Group’s decision to acquire Boston Dynamics is based on “the growth potential and broad range of capabilities of a robot manufacturer.”
Upon completion of the deal, Hyundai Motor Group plans to provide Boston Dynamics with access to its own manufacturing facilities. Boston Dynamics, HMG believes, will benefit from capital, technology, affiliate customers and HMG’s global market presence, which will enhance the commercialization of Boston Dynamics’ products. On the other hand, the investment in Boston Dynamics will enable Hyundai to develop service and logistics robots. HMG expects to implement Spot robots in its factories. Over time, the company plans to expand its presence in the humanoid robot market.
Hyundai Motor Group is investing in its own robots. At CES 2017, Hyundai Motor Company unveiled the MEX exoskeleton, which helps patients with lower limb paralysis to move around. In 2018, Hyundai Motor introduced the VEX and CEX exoskeletons, which are designed to ease the burden on manual workers. Hyundai is funding a pilot program to build hospitality robots. The company plans to commission sales service robots next year.
Hyundai’s focus on the robotics sector has grown in recent years, according to The Korea Economic Daily. The company intends to invest about $ 1.4 billion in this segment by 2025.
The deal marks SoftBank’s abandonment of existing businesses as the company’s CEO Masayoshi Son plans to focus on investment.
The deal is expected to close by June 2021, subject to regulatory approval.
Bloomberg previously reported that Hyundai is interested in buying Boston Dynamics. Then the deal was estimated at $ 1 billion.
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