U.S., Japanese insurers back autonomous vehicle firm May Mobility

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SBULogos of Tokio Marine Holdings Inc are pictured at a news conference in Tokyo

By Joseph White

DETROIT – U.S. auto insurer State Farm and Japanese insurance company Tokio Marine have joined in a $111 million funding round for autonomous vehicle technology startup May Mobility, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company said on Tuesday.

The funding will allow May Mobility to continue work with Toyota Motor Corp on self-driving people movers, May Mobility said in a statement. May said it is aiming to take human drivers out of vehicles in commercial operation by next year.

State Farm, one of the largest U.S. auto insurers, invested through its State Farm Ventures arm, which puts money into startups working on technology that could improve vehicle safety.

Insurance industry support for autonomous vehicle technology could be crucial as self-driving vehicle companies work to convince regulators that robot vehicles can be safer than human-driven ones.

May said the latest funding around was led by Japanese investment firm Sparx Asset Management Co’s Mirai Creation Fund II.

May’s fund raising comes at a challenging time for some autonomous and electric vehicle startups as investors have backed away from riskier ventures. Autonomous vehicle company Argo AI said last week it would cut 150 of its more than 2,000 employees worldwide.

(Reporting By Joe White; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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