Toyota Forms $2.8 Billion Company Focused on Autonomous-Driving Tech

The automaker hopes to accelerate development of self-driving cars.

byStephen Edelstein|
Toyota Forms $2.8 Billion Company Focused on Autonomous-Driving Tech

Toyota wants to get self-driving cars on the road sooner rather than later, so it's forming a new company that will focus specifically on development. The Japanese automaker is teaming up with Aisin Seiki Co. and Denso Corporation to form Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, or TRI-AD (because it's the joint effort of three companies, get it?).

The goal of TRI-AD is to create "fully-integrated, production-quality software for automated driving," a Toyota press release said. Toyota, Aisin Seiki, and Denso are still working out some of the details of the joint effort, but they have already agreed to invest 300 billion yen ($2.8 billion).

TRI-AD will be headquartered in Tokyo, and will have 1,000 employees, including a mix of new hires and employees shifted over from the new company's three backers. Dr. James Kuffner, currently chief technology officer of the Toyota Research Institute, will be TRI-AD's CEO. He said the new company will recruit "world-class software engineers" and will search for them globally.

The Toyota Research Institute has led Toyota's autonomous car efforts so far. It's built a handful of development mules based on the previous-generation Lexus LS, and even equipped one with two steering wheels to test the process of passing control between a human driver and the machine.

Toyota is testing a prototype system that is fully-autonomous, and one that only intervenes when it determines that the human driver needs help. But the automaker's production autonomous vehicles may leave humans out of the loop. 

At CES 2018, Toyota unveiled the e-Palette concept, a nondescript box on wheels designed for sharing services. The automaker has recruited a team of companies to develop the e-Palette and potential businesses for it.