Hyundai buys 80% stake in robot maker Boston Dynamics

Hyundai Motor Group, along with some associated companies and Chairman Euisun Chung, has acquired an 80% controlling stake in Boston Dynamics valued at $1.1 billion, while 20% is held by SoftBank through one of its affiliates, the companies said in a statement Friday.

Hyundai says the deal will “mark another major step toward its strategic transformation into a smart mobility solution provider,” and will complement existing investments in sustainability, eco-vehicles, smart factories — otherwise known as Industry 4.0 — artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics.

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South Korean conglomerate Hyundai Motor Group has been beefing up its research in robotics as it expands further into electric and autonomous vehicles. Carmaker Hyundai Motor Co plans to spend over 60 trillion won ($55 billion) in the next five years in these areas to become one of the world’s leading auto manufacturers. The broader empire is also exploring practical uses for industrial robots

The robotics and engineering group, perhaps best known for its Spot Robot launched commercially this year — intends to enter the logistics automation market soon with Pick, and a mobile robot suitable for warehouses is also expected to become available next year.

Hyundai says that Boston Dynamics has massive growth potential and its portfolio contains “multiple key technologies” of interest to the motor group. In particular, technologies related to “perception, navigation, and intelligence” are noted.

Where Boston Dynamics is based, in Boston and Silicon Valley, was also a factor in the acquisition. Hyundai calls these areas “major robot cluster regions” which are ideal for tapping top talent in the robotics field and “collaborating with competent partners.”

Hyundai says that both of the companies can “leverage each other’s respective strengths in manufacturing, logistics, construction, and automation.”

A sale of Boston Dynamics would mark another twist in the trajectory of a company that spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1990s and operated independently until Google bought it in 2013. It was sold again in 2017, that time to SoftBank.