Toyota Motor and Grab will make a formal announcement of the initiative next week
Toyota to supply Grab with hybrid cars fitted with 'black box' recorders Toyota Motor and Grab will make a formal announcement of the initiative next week. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Toyota Motor will supply about 1,500 petrol-electric Prius cars to ride-hailing firm Grab in Singapore fitted with "black box" recorders which will help the Japanese carmaker gain insights into how its cars are being used.

This is the first concrete initiative to emerge from Toyota's US$1 billion investment in Grab announced in June.

Both companies will make a formal announcement of the initiative next week.

Neither was available for comment, but The Straits Times understands the fleet will spearhead Toyota's ambition to get Grab - South-east Asia's biggest ride-hailing firm - to operate more of its cars.

The recorders will allow Toyota to understand driving behaviour better. The knowledge will go towards improving the design and manufacture of future cars.

For Grab, the devices will help it to minimise the time its fleet spends in the workshop.

"Data collected will allow them to do precise, pre-emptive servicing," a source close to deal said, adding that this would prevent breakdowns or poor performance.

Through authorised agent Borneo Motors, Toyota will also roll out an "express service" for Grab cars.

For fleet operators and their drivers, downtime means rental and revenue foregone.

In September, Bloomberg reported that Toyota planned to install recorders in GrabRentals' fleet of 7,000 or so cars in Singapore.

Quoting Toyota global head of connected car division Shigeki Tomoyama, it said the initiative will be rolled out to the rest of the markets which Grab operates in.

Back in June, Reuters reported that Toyota had been testing its TransLog driving recorder since 2016 with taxi firms and car-hailing operators, including Grab.

In July that year, Toyota announced a tie-up with Japanese insurer Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance to introduce discounted insurance premiums in Japan to fleet operators which install TransLog recorders in their vehicles.

A similar plan is likely to be introduced in Singapore.

But more than that, data from recorders installed in Grab's fleet will help Toyota evolve from a vehicle maker to a company which provides mobility as a service.

In the long term, the Japanese company aims to roll out services such as self-driving shuttles, mobile restaurants and hotels.

With Toyota's investment, Grab will accelerate its ambition to become Asia's "everyday super app" as it expands services such as food delivery, payments, loans and courier services.

"All these as a business will be 100 times bigger than ride-hailing," a Grab executive once said.