May Mobility, a U.S. self-driving shuttle company, has raised $50 million in its latest round of financing with a substantial chunk coming from one of the world's biggest automakers.
Toyota was the largest investor in the Series B round. Though the company's exact investment was not disclosed, its involvement marks another signal of its interest in business models that stretch beyond traditional vehicle sales.
"May Mobility already has a track record of commercializing autonomous driving shuttles in the U.S., and we see this as an exciting opportunity to collaborate with a seasoned partner in this area," Keiji Yamamoto, Toyota operating officer and president of the company's in-house connected services, said in a statement.
May Mobility, which is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has pilot projects deployed in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Providence, Rhode Island. A test program in Columbus, Ohio, concluded this fall.
Overall, the company has raised $83.6 million since its founding in January 2017, according to Crunchbase records. The latest funding round will fund hiring on the company's engineering and mobility teams and help expand deployments of the company's six-seat shuttles.
Toyota's involvement raises the possibility that future pilot projects and deployments would be located in Japan, said Alisyn Malek, COO at May Mobility. But there are no concrete plans, and the company's immediate expansion efforts will be focused in the United States.
Toyota AI Ventures, the automaker's venture-capital arm, was an early investor in May Mobility. It participated in the latest funding round with an investment separate from the one made by its parent company. This marks the first time that Toyota has made an investment in one of the venture fund's holdings.
Other return investors include BMW iVentures, Millennium Technology Value Partners and Cyrus Capital Partners. Sparx Group is a new investor in the Series B round.
Beyond its autonomous-driving technology, one factor attracting investment is May Mobility's business model, which focuses on first-mile-last-mile links for commuters near urban cores. Rather than selling its shuttles to customers, it provides a turnkey service that supplies the vehicles and handles ongoing fleet maintenance.
"I would argue they're a mobility company, and that is not just an autonomy company," said Jim Adler, founding managing director of Toyota AI Ventures. "… Their job is to move people, and they happen to use really cool tech and do it at a good price point."
May Mobility says it has provided more than 170,000 revenue-generating rides through its pilot projects.
"We are extremely excited to partner with Toyota and our other investors in this next phase of growth for our company," May Mobility CEO Edwin Olson said in a statement.