South Korean car giant Hyundai Motor Group has agreed to buy a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics, in a deal that values the U.S.-based robot maker at $1.1 billion, from SoftBank Group.
Boston Dynamics said in a statement that Hyundai will hold an 80% stake in the company, while SoftBank will retain the remaining 20%. Hyundai is led by chairman Euisun Chung, who is one of the richest men in Korea, with a net worth of $3.5 billion.
The deal will leverage Boston Dynamics’ and Hyundai’s respective strengths in manufacturing, logistics and automation, the statement said, as well as “lend synergies” to autonomous vehicles. Hyundai, which is the second-largest conglomerate in Korea after Samsung, has ambitious plans to invest more than $50 billion over the next five years to become a “Smart Mobility Solution Provider,” a broad plan that includes driverless cars.
Boston Dynamics said in its statement that Hyundai has already invested substantially in the development of future technologies, including in autonomous driving, smart factories, artificial intelligence, robotics and eco-friendly vehicles. Just last month, Hyundai struck a deal with European chemical giant Ineos to explore joint development of hydrogen technology for the car maker’s hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
“The acquisition of Boston Dynamics would bring in-house some of the market-leading capabilities, technologies and know-how, and provide a significant boost for Hyundai’s plans,” says Yu Yuansheng, a Singapore-based senior analyst with Lux Research. Yu points to Hyundai’s Vest EXoskeleton, a wearable robot to assist factory workers it unveiled last year. Hyundai is now developing medical robots to help disabled people walk, he adds.
Boston Dynamics was founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992 and ran independently until Google bought it in 2013. SoftBank acquired it four years later for an undisclosed sum. Today Boston Dynamics says that it develops “agile, mobile robots that have been successfully integrated into various business operations,” including Ford Motor.
Through the sale to Hyundai, SoftBank will “partner” with the Korean company to accelerate the commercialization of Boston Dynamics. SoftBank’s billionaire chairman Masayoshi Son said in the statement that “Boston Dynamics has a very bright future” with Hyundai.