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Reliance picks up 12.7% stake in US pod car developer SkyTran

Reliance picks up 12.7% stake in US pod car developer SkyTran
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Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd, has acquired a 12.7% stake in SkyTran Inc., a US venture-funded technology company developing pod car transport systems.

Reliance made the investment as part of SkyTran's recently-concluded financing round, it said in a statement.

India’s biggest private-sector company by market value didn’t disclose the amount it invested in SkyTran. But it said that it has the option of investing an additional amount up to $25 million in convertible notes, subject to approval from SkyTran's board.

Founded in 2011, SkyTran says it aims to solve the problem of traffic congestion globally by creating a transport option that is high-speed, scalable, and low-cost.

The company which has partnered with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in Israel, has developed magnetic levitation technology for implementing personal transportation systems.

The proposed SkyTran network would consist of computer-controlled passenger pods running on its patented Passive Magnetic Levitation technology. It will leverage IT, telecom, lnternet of Things (IoT) and Advanced Materials technologies for the purpose.

Reliance said its investment had been made with the aim of striking an exclusive partnership in India. It will work closely with SkyTran to develop pilot implementations and eventually launch them at scale. Reliance said it will support SkyTran’s efforts with telecom, IoT, digital platforms, advanced material and electric batteries.

"Our partnership with SkyTran reflects our commitment to invest in futuristic technologies,” said Reliance Jio director Akash Ambani, “Reliance is well-poised to capitalise on its existing business portfolio and capabilities to accelerate the development of SkyTran across the world and especially in India." 

SkyTran was among the three companies picked by the Indian government last year to build pod cars.

A SkyTran Inc executive had told Mint that the firm was ready to build and fund a kilometre-long pilot track in India on its own.

The firm had said it was exploring speeds of 120-130 kilometres per hour for intra-city transport and 250 kilometres per hour for inter-city transport.

According to business information platform Crunchbase, Skytran had raised $9 million in funding before Reliance’s investment.

Reliance’s technology bets, telecom play

The conglomerate has made a number of investments in the technology space in the recent past.

Last month, it made a follow-on investment of $8 million (around Rs 58 crore at current exchange rates) in US-based artificial intelligence firm Netradyne Inc.

In June, Reliance Industries had agreed to acquire Radisys Corporation, a US-based open telecom platform solutions provider, for $75 million (Rs 510 crore) in cash.

Telecom unit Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd has shaken up the industry with its cut-throat tariffs and triggered a wave of consolidation. Reliance Jio is now among the top three telecom operators in the country.

It has now turned its attention towards disrupting the country’s broadband and direct-to-home television industries. On Wednesday, Reliance Industries said it would acquire majority stakes in Den Networks Ltd and Hathway Cable & Datacom Ltd for Rs 5,230 crore ($710 million).

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