Toyota Taking Lead
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Toyota Taking Lead in Autonomous Car Tech, Investing 2.8 Billion

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. and its top two suppliers said they will pump $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. This is in concert with their long-term vision of E-palette which involves deployment of fully autonomous vehicles to provide a number of delivery services.

The new venture, called Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, or TRI-AD, is being created later this month (March ‘18) with Toyota Group suppliers Aisin Seiki Co. and Denso Corp.

The new entity will be based in Tokyo with staffing expectations to eventually grow to some 1,000 people, Toyota said Friday.

James Kuffner, 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 threesome 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 each.

TRI-AD will focus on the 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.

Kelly Kleinman/Dealership News

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