Toyota is betting big on autonomous driving technology by dropping big money on research and development in a new joint venture.
Toyota has recently announced they’ve signed a memorandum of understanding with two other companies, Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd. (Aisin), and Denso Corporation (Denso), to create the Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD).
Although this is being billed as a joint venture, 90 percent of the funding is coming from Toyota while 5 percent is coming from Asin and Denso. Furthermore, Asin and Denso are also partners in the Toyota Group of Companies, so you might as well think of this as Toyota unless you plan on actually moving to Japan and investing domestically.
Anyway, Toyota is dropping 300 billion yen (that’s around $283 million USD) to create TRI-AD with the intent of developing autonomous driving technology--specifically the software required to get a car driving on the highway without user intervention. Toyota already invested heavily in driverless technology, as evident by Lexus’ advanced suite of driver-assist and upcoming autonomous driving modes, but TRI-AD is envisioned as taking things to the next level by streamlining product development under a single roof.
The venture will be led by Dr. James Kuffner, the current Toyota Research Institute's CTO (Toyota Research Institute being yet another Toyota-affiliated research company).
“Building production-quality software is a critical success factor for Toyota’s automated driving program,” said Dr. Kuffner 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. We will recruit globally, and I am thrilled to lead this effort.”
Toyota is finding itself increasingly beset by Silicon Valley corporations when it comes to driverless technology. All the major automotive players are investing to some degree in automation, but so too are tech giants like Google, Uber, and Amazon.
TRI-AD plans to eventually hire up to 1000 of the world’s top software engineers and position itself as very much a technology company and not just a car company.
Toyota hopes that TRI-AD will have a fully autonomous, highway-capable car on the roads by 2020.