Daily Management Review

Robot Maker Boston Dynamics To Be Acquired By Hyundai From SoftBank


Robot Maker Boston Dynamics To Be Acquired By Hyundai From SoftBank
Hyundai Motor Group said on Friday that it will be purchasing an 80 per cent stake in robot maker Boston Dynamics from SoftBank Group Corp
In the deal, the robot company was valued at $1.1 billion, Hyundai said, which indicates that the South Korean auto company has offered $880 million for the stake in the robot maker.
According to analysts, automation at its unionised car factories will be expanded by Hyundai by leveraging robot technology from the deal as well as help in designing of autonomous vehicles such as self-driving cars, drones and delivery robots
This latest deal follows the pledge by Hyundai Motor Group’s newly promoted chairman Euisun Chung of reducing the company’s dependence on traditional car manufacturing. Chung had said that about 20 per cent of the company’s future business would be accounted for by robotics while 50 per cent will be provided by car-making and the rest 30 per cent will be provided by its urban air mobility business.
A 20 per cent stake in the robot maker Boston Dynamics will be held by Chung while a combined 60 per cent stake in the robot maker will be held by Hyundai Motor and its affiliates, Hyundai Mobis and Hyundai Glovis.
“The transaction will unite capabilities of Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics to spearhead innovation in future mobility,” Chung said in a statement.
In 2013, Google had acquired Boston Dynamics, which was spun out from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992, and then later sold the company to SoftBank in 2017.
Spot, a four-legged dog-like robot that can climb stairs, is the star product of the company and even though the company has found it hard to build a commercial business, it has found wide coverage in the media.
The clients of the company include the likes of Ford Motor Co which leased two Spot robots in July as part of a pilot programme.
“Hyundai needs to prove that Boston Dynamics can be commercially successful and is capable of competing with cheaper Chinese rivals,” said Koh Tae-bong, an analyst at Hi Investment & Securities.
As a part of its plans to design a fleet of self-driving delivery vans capable of dropping off packages at the doorsteps of people’s homes, the United States based auto maker Ford Motor had struck a partnership with the walking robot maker Agility Robotics, the auto giant had said last year.
The deal for Spot is the latest effort of SoftBank to retract from operating businesses as the company now returns its focus on its investing business. The deal also indicates the waning down of robotics ambitions of SoftBank. Following this deal, the leftover robotics business of SoftBank, which includes humanoid robot Pepper, leaves little options for the company.
On the other hand, the latest deal by Hyundai is an addition is a slew of deals being struck under the leadership of Chung, who has set a vision for the company to become a mobility provider as the company faces increasing threats from electric carmaker Tesla as well as other tech companies in the areas of ride-sharing, self-driving and other technologies.
“Automakers are in an innovation race. Hyundai is a late-comer to the race, and it seems that they want to showcase that they can do it, rather than trying to generate money from the robot business,” said mobility consultant Cha Doo-won.