Autos

Toyota Votes $2.8B For Self-Driving Cars

Toyota Motor Corporation and its top two suppliers said they will plow $2.8 billion into a new company to create the software that runs self-driving cars, as Japan’s largest automaker steps up investments in new fields such as autonomous driving and electrification.

The new venture, dubbed Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, or TRI-AD, is being created later this month with Toyota Group suppliers Aisin Seiki Co. and Denso Corp.

It will be based in Tokyo and initially employ 300 people on its way to expanding to a staff of some 1,000 people, Toyota said Friday.

James Kuffner, currently chief technology officer at the Silicon Valley-based Toyota Research Institute, will lead the venture as CEO. TRI-AD is being positioned as a bridge between product development and TRI, which was founded in 2016 to focus more on pure research.

The three partners will invest 300 billion yen ($2.8 billion) in TRI-AD, with Toyota taking a 90 percent stake and Aisin Seiki and Denso each holding 5 percent.

TRI-AD will target development of “production-quality software for automated driving,” partly by harnessing big data collected from connected vehicles, Toyota said.

Toyota and its partners already do this, but Toyota hopes to jumpstart progress by combining efforts under one roof with an expanded staff and bigger budget, a spokesman said. Toyota says it wants to introduce cars capable of driving themselves on highways by around 2020.

The move mirrors a similar breakout last year to create a separate company dedicated to electric vehicle development with Denso and fellow automaker Mazda Motor Corp.

Auto News report that creating a self-standing autonomous driving unit may help Toyota lure top computing talent as automakers increasingly compete against high tech companies for talent.

Although based in Tokyo, English will be the business language of the new company.

“We will recruit globally,” Kuffner said in a statement. “This company’s mission is to accelerate software development in a more effective and disruptive way, by augmenting the Toyota Group’s capability through the hiring of world-class software engineers.”

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