Hyundai purchases robotics company Boston Dynamics to accelerate autonomy

The South Korean brand purchases an 80% stake in US based Boston Dynamics.

As the 21st century continues to progress, automotive giants are slowly turning away from driving precision, re-investing their time and finances towards tech companies. New-found technology in autonomy, electricity and mobility has brought about a new era of transportation, with the old days of manual operation near its demise.

The latest tech addition to the automotive industry lies in the hands of Hyundai Motor Group, with the purchase of one of – if not – the most famous robotics company in the world, Boston Dynamics.

Founded in 1992, the robotics company was made possible by the world-class Massachusetts Institute of Technology based in Boston, Massachusetts. Responsible for some of the most realistically behaved robots the world has ever seen, Boston Dynamics has worked on major engineering projects such as those from the Naval Air Warfare Centre Training Systems Division in the company’s early years.

Eventually, the company started building their own robots, inititally funded by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency for the United States Military. This included ‘BigDog’, a robot designed to carry 150kg of supplies alongside a soldier at speeds of up to 6.4km/h on terrain unsuitable for vehicles.

In 2013, the company was purchased by Alphabet Inc.’s secret research and development facility ‘Google X’, before being passed onto Japan’s SoftBank Group in 2017 for an undisclosed amount.

Fast forward to December 2020, the new majority stakeholder for the company lies at the hands of Hyundai Motor Company – purchasing an 80% stake from SoftBank for around $1.1 billion USD (~A$1.45B).

Hyundai plans to use technology from Boston Dynamics to master autonomous decision-making and vision to accelerate Hyundai’s process in developing fully autonomous self-driving cars and flying vehicles (as the company has promised will arrive before the decade’s end).

Two birds with one stone per se, the robotics company will also seek to develop new ways to expedite car production, driving better efficieny in the vehicle manufacturing and logistics process.

This isn’t the first time Boston Dynamics has worked with an automotive manufacturer, as recently, Ford Motor Company became a customer after leasing four-legged robots to automate the mapping process at Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant.

Hyundai plans to do more than just map out spaces however, as they want to take robotics to the next level, stating that they will likely expand the ‘humanoid’ line-up over time, eventually leading to robots that have the capability to perform extremely complex tasks including patient care in hospitals.

CEO of Boston Dynamics, Robert Playter, stated “Boston Dynamics’ commercial business has grown rapidly as we’ve brought to market the first robot that can automate repetitive and dangerous tasks in workplaces designed for human-level mobility… 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.”


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