Uber agrees to form joint venture with SK Telecom for e-hailing and flying car businesses

By Lim Chang-won Posted : October 16, 2020, 11:31 Updated : October 16, 2020, 11:31

[Courtesy of SK Telecom]

SEOUL -- Uber Technologies, the world’s largest mobility platform company, agreed to form a joint venture with a specialized mobility business company that will be spun off from SK Telecom, a top mobile carrier in South Korea, to launch an innovative e-hailing business and explore future mobility services such as flying cars.

SK Telecom (SKT) said in a statement that its board has approved the creation of a new entity provisionally named "T Map Mobility". Uber agreed to invest over $100 million in the joint venture and $50 million in T Map Mobility, which would be split off on December 29.

The joint venture would combine SKT's network of drivers and mapping technology with Uber's ride-hailing technology and operations expertise. "Through our strong partnership with SKT, we will expand access to ride-hailing services in the country, and bring better service to riders and drivers," Uber's chief financial officer Nelson Chai was quoted as saying.

SKT promised to attract investment from external investors into its new entity that would embrace technologies related to T Map-based services including a taxi-hailing service with 200,000 registered drivers and 750,000 monthly active users. T-Map is South Korea's largest mobility platform with around 13 million monthly active users.

SKT CEO Park Jung-ho said his company aims to realize "greater safety for all modes of transportation." "To this end, we will work closely with companies with diverse capabilities to address current challenges in transportation, and ultimately usher in a new era of future mobility technologies such as flying cars."

SKT said that T Map Mobility's main businesses would include a platform business in parking, advertising and usage-based insurance, in-vehicle infotainment and in-car payment, taxi-hailing and designated driver services, and all-in-one mobility that offers diverse means of transportation at discounted rates through subscription.

SKT said it would leverage 5G, artificial intelligence and T Map capabilities to offer optimal route planning, 3-D high definition mapping for high-altitude geographic features and intelligent air traffic control systems for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. SKT is a member of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Team Korea, a public-private consultative body launched in June to commercialize drone taxis in 2025.

UAM is an ecosystem covering personal air vehicles (PAVs) and infrastructure such as a new navigation system, take-off and landing fields and charging technologies. Flying cars are emerging as a future system of travel to avoid traffic jams on urban roads. Startups as well as global giants such as Airbus, Boeing and Uber are vying to develop PAVs and autonomous air taxis.

Along with real-time traffic information and fast and accurate road guidance services, SKT has tried to hook an infotainment system onto 5G networks for seamless car entertainment including music and video streaming services as well as convenient mobility services including the live high-definition map update, which is an important technology feature for autonomous cars.

T Map-based high-precision maps provide drivers with a pleasant and safe driving experience by organically combining with vehicle systems and supporting next-generation intelligent driver assistance systems. 
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