Toyota Creates Self-Driving R&D Institute In Japan

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Toyota aims to ramp up its efforts in the autonomous driving segment by setting up a new company in Tokyo, Japan. The giant automaker announced it will establish the Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD) facility later this month. The center will be led by Dr. James Kuffner set to be appointed as its Chief Executive Officer. Kuffner presently serves as the CEO of the Toyota Research Institute which was founded in 2016 in North America as part of Toyota’s efforts to explore robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and autonomous driving. At TRI-AD, he is expected to lead approximately 1,000 employees and although the new company will be based in Tokyo, Toyota is still scouting for an ideal location within the city that’s conducive to business in terms of hiring opportunities and ease of access.

In conjunction with the announcement, Toyota also unveiled a memorandum of understanding (MoU) it just signed with Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd. and Denso Corporation as part of a broader initiative to jointly develop a software system for self-driving vehicles that’s meant to be mass-deployed and incorporates multiple technologies from the trio. The MoU will allow the three firms to discuss potential business opportunities in the joint development phase of the automated driving software with a potential combined investment of 300 billion yen ($2.84 billion). Once TRI-AD is officially established, the new company will collaborate with TRI in a wide variety of R&D efforts. In the human resource aspect, Toyota plans to hire engineers from across the world and foster additional talent development within its own ranks, the company claims.

Toyota has been working on multiple endeavors geared toward the acceleration of its automated driving push. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 held last month in Las Vegas, the Japanese automaker showcased a new concept called the e-Palette project intended to adopt the sort of autonomous driving services similar to those being pursued by Uber, Lyft, and Waymo, while also providing an end-to-end solution for a self-driving economy in the form of on-demand cities. Toyota and Uber also recently held talks over a new self-driving partnership but have yet to reach a definitive agreement on the matter.