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Hyundai Motor Group to acquire controlling interest in mobile robot firm Boston Dynamics

Hyundai Motor Group will acquire a controlling interest in the mobile robot firm Boston Dynamics from Softbank in a deal that values Boston Dynamics at $1.1 billion. The deal came as Hyundai Motor Group envisions the transformation of human life by combining world-leading robotics technologies with its mobility expertise. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Under the agreement, Hyundai Motor Group will hold an approximately 80% stake in Boston Dynamics and SoftBank, through one of its affiliates, will retain an approximately 20% stake in Boston Dynamics after the closing of the transaction. Hyundai Motor Group’s affiliates—Hyundai Motor Co., Hyundai Mobis Co. and Hyundai Glovis Co.—and Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung respectively participated in the acquisition.

Hyundai said that by establishing a leading presence in the field of robotics, the acquisition will mark another major step for it toward its strategic transformation into a Smart Mobility Solution Provider. (Earlier post.)

To propel this transformation, Hyundai Motor Group has invested substantially in development of future technologies, including in fields such as autonomous driving technology, connectivity, eco-friendly vehicles, smart factories, advanced materials, artificial intelligence (AI), and robots.

Advanced robotics offer opportunities for rapid growth with the potential to positively impact society in multiple ways. Boston Dynamics is the established leader in developing agile, mobile robots that have been successfully integrated into various business operations. The deal is also expected to allow Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics to leverage each other’s respective strengths in manufacturing, logistics, construction and automation.


Boston Dynamics’ Spot and Atlas

Boston Dynamics produces highly capable mobile robots with advanced mobility, dexterity and intelligence, enabling automation in difficult, dangerous, or unstructured environments. The company launched sales of its first commercial robot, Spot, in June of 2020 and has since sold hundreds of robots in a variety of industries, such as power utilities, construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, and mining.

Boston Dynamics plans to expand the 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.

Boston Dynamics is also entering the logistics automation market with the industry leading Pick, a computer vision-based depalletizing solution, and will introduce a mobile robot for warehouses in 2021.

Hyundai Motor Group's decision to acquire Boston Dynamics is based on its growth potential and wide range of capabilities. Boston Dynamics possesses multiple key technologies for high-performance robots equipped with perception, navigation, and intelligence. Also, Boston Dynamics is located in Boston and Silicon Valley, both major robot cluster regions, which is advantageous to sourcing key robotics talents and collaborating with competent partners.

Hyundai Motor Group's AI and Human Robot Interaction (HRI) expertise is highly synergistic with Boston Dynamics's 3D vision, manipulation, and bipedal/quadruped expertise.

Hyundai Motor Group will provide Boston Dynamics a strategic partner affording access to Hyundai Motor Group’s in-house manufacturing capability and cost benefits stemming from efficiencies of scale. Boston Dynamics will benefit substantially from new capital, technology, affiliated customers, and Hyundai Motor Group’s global market reach enhancing commercialization opportunity for its robot products.

Hyundai Motor Group believes that the robotics market has potential for significant growth in the future. Hyundai Motor Group plans to invest in logistics robots to enhance efficiency and establish logistics automation, as well as service robots, which have broad usage potential beyond commercial use in areas such as public security and safety. In health-related public services, robots can be used to offer freedom of mobility for the disabled or the elderly.

The investment in Boston Dynamics furthers Hyundai's portfolio of technology that addresses opportunities for both service robots and logistics robots. Service robots such as Spot have the potential to perform dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks in settings where automation has been challenging to implement. With its computer vision solution, Pick, for depalletizing and its mobile warehouse robot in development, Boston Dynamics will expand Hyundai's footprint in logistics robots.

Over time, Hyundai Motor Group plans to expand its presence into the humanoid robot market with the aim of developing humanoid robots for sophisticated services such as caregiving for patients at hospitals.

Hyundai Motor Group envisions robotics technologies to lend synergies to the new mobility solutions such as autonomous driving and UAM as well as smart factory platforms it hopes to develop in the near future. Furthermore, the other Hyundai Motor Group entities are expected to contribute their respective manufacturing, R&D and logistics capabilities to help generate a new robotics-focused value chain that is anticipated to create synergies with Boston Dynamics.

Hyundai Motor Group has been steadily investing in and developing robots with its proprietary technologies. At CES 2017, Hyundai Motor Company revealed MEX, which helps paraplegic patients walk once more. In 2018, Hyundai Motor introduced VEX and CEX, aimed to help alleviate the burden of workers in the workplace. Hyundai also demonstrated its capabilities in service robots by its pilot program of hotel service robot in June of 2019. It plans to deploy sales service robots into operation next year. Robotics Lab of Hyundai is devoted to the research and development of robots, while its affiliates continue to work on the commercial production of industrial robots.

The transaction, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, is expected to close by June of 2021.


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