Toyota Self-Driving Efforts Amp Up With a New Software Company

The new venture, costing $2.8 billion, will be based in Tokyo as an offshoot of Toyota Research Institute.

Toyota is beefing up its efforts to develop smarter self-driving technology. The Tokyo branch of the automaker just debuted its Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Decelopment, or TRI-AD (that's a pretty nifty acronym), for a hefty $2.8 billion price tag. Over the next few years the company, along with auto supplier Aisin Seiki and Denso, will hire around 1,000 employees solely focusing on developing software systems that power fully autonomous vehicles.

TRI-AD is a branch of Toyota Research Institute, which was started in 2015 in North America. According to Verge, this new venture gives Toyota some skin in the self-driving technology game, possibly boosting it past automakers like Ford that are also branching out into this tech. Toyota has already been working on artificial intelligence systems to enhance autonomous vehicle and robotic projects. Since TRI-AD hired the former head of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, it has focused efforts on fully self-driving vehicles and for driver assistance systems.

Facing Competition

Toyota self-driving tech will be using the Lexus LS 600hl as a test vehicle, making it one classy autonomous ride. TRI-AD and TRI will "link" software with each other, ultimately hoping to create a self-driving-only vehicle completely made in-house.

This new project puts Toyota ahead of many other car-makers that are trying to develop similar tech and vehicles. GM, for instance, is looking to unveil its fully self-driving Chevy Bolt, but it developed the car with a third-party startup. Ford pumped $1 billion into a small AI startup called Argo, and Silicon Valley is flexing a full roster of companies aiming to join up with car companies.

Is Toyota self-driving tech emerging as a threat for companies like Google, another company looking to sharpen self-driving tech by partnering with Fiat Chrysler. Time will tell.

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