Hyundai auto group seals $880 mln deal to acquire Boston Dynamics

By Lim Chang-won Posted : December 11, 2020, 18:14 Updated : December 23, 2020, 16:29

[Courtesy of Hyundai Motor]

SEOUL -- South Korea's Hyundai auto group sealed an $880 million deal to acquire Boston Dynamics, an American engineering and robotics design company known for Spot, a quadruped robot as the group diversifies its business portfolio into robotics and urban air mobility.

Hyundai said it would acquire a controlling 80 percent stake in Boston Dynamics from SoftBank Group. Hyundai Chairman Chung Eui-sun will inject some 240 billion won ($220 million) in private property into the deal, underlining his drive to nurture urban air mobility (UAM), an ecosystem covering personal air vehicles (PAVs) or flying cars.

PAVs are emerging as a future system of travel to avoid traffic jams on urban roads as the doorstep-to-doorstep average speed for cars is predicted to degrade further. Chung has called for a drastic structural change to become a key player in the production of PAVs.

Advanced robotics offer opportunities for rapid growth with the potential to positively impact society in multiple ways, Hyundai said in a statement on December 11, describing Boston Dynamics as the established leader in developing agile, mobile robots that have been successfully integrated into various business operations.

"We are delighted to have Boston Dynamics, a world leader in mobile robots, join the Hyundai team," Chung said, adding the transaction would unite the capabilities of Hyundai and Boston Dynamics to spearhead innovation in future mobility.

The auto group said the deal would allow Hyundai and Boston Dynamics to leverage each other's respective strengths in manufacturing, logistics, construction and automation.

"We and Hyundai share a view of the transformational power of mobility and look forward to working together to accelerate our plans to enable the world with cutting edge automation, and to continue to solve the world’s hardest robotics challenges for our customers,"  Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter was quoted as saying.

Boston Dynamics plans to expand its Spot product line early next year with an enterprise version of the robot with greater levels of autonomy and remote inspection capabilities, and the release of a robotic arm, which will be a breakthrough in mobile manipulation, Hyundai said, citing the American company's key technologies for high-performance robots equipped with perception, navigation, and intelligence.

Hyundai said it would invest in logistics robots to enhance efficiency and establish logistics automation, as well as service robots. For a long-term strategy, the auto group aims to develop humanoid robots for sophisticated services such as caregiving for patients at hospitals.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January, Hyundai showcased "Elevate", a concept model for its experimental four-legged electric vehicle capable of traversing unforgiving terrains to reach disaster sites. The concept is based on creating a modular electric vehicle capable of switching different bodies for specific situations.
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