Technical company

Toyota buys US mapping and road data company to boost driverless technology

The Toyota Motor Corp logo on the Estima Hybrid is pictured at its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan on February 6, 2017. REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO, July 15 (Reuters) – The research division of Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said on Thursday it has acquired Carmera, a U.S. provider of maps and data for driverless vehicles, marking the Japanese automaker’s latest investment in autonomous technology.

The purchase, through the newly created subsidiary Woven Planet for an undisclosed amount, underscores Toyota’s desire to bolster its autonomous driving arsenal as traditional automakers compete with the autonomous ambitions of tech giants, notably Apple (AAPL.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O).

The Carmera purchase will give Toyota access to high-definition, real-time maps and participatory inputs that are essential for autonomous vehicles to locate and move, the companies said in a statement.

The two companies have been working together since 2018 on projects that include technology that accurately updates lane markings repainted on high-definition maps.

“It’s very well aligned with our global expansion as a company,” Woven Planet chief executive James Kuffner told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

Woven Planet was created in January to invest in and develop mobility with artificial intelligence. It is building a prototype “city of the future” called Woven City at the foot of Mount Fuji, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which would be a laboratory for self-driving cars.

With the acquisition, Kuffner said Woven Planet would seek to develop and sell a mapping platform open to original equipment manufacturers and automakers who want accurate and up-to-date data.

“With Carmera, we are only accelerating. We will continue to accelerate… and seek strategic partnerships or acquisitions,” Kuffner said, adding that he wanted to “double or quadruple” the size of Woven Planet in both. next months. years through organic growth and acquisitions.

Earlier this year, Toyota purchased the Autonomous Driving Technology Unit from Lyft Inc (LYFT.O) for $ 550 million, and invested in Ridecell which provides automation for fleet businesses. Read more

The Japanese company has other self-driving partnerships, including a joint venture with SoftBank Corp (9434.T), stakes in China’s Didi Global Inc (DIDI.N) and Singaporean Grab, and forms a consortium with General Motors Co (GM. N), chip manufacturers and suppliers.

Shifting to manufacturing new and non-traditional cars such as driverless and electric technology, Toyota has increasingly married its historic manufacturing process with more recent acquisitions of startups and Silicon Valley know-how to develop the next generation of cars.

“There is so much uncertainty in the automotive space right now,” Kuffner said.

“But the only thing I’m sure is that it will be very different in 10 or 30 years. The only thing we can do is try to create the future by investing… taking the profits from the existing business of Toyota and invest in the future, to create the future of the Toyota group. “

Most automakers, including Toyota, offer Tier 2 automation where the car steers and accelerates, but the driver has to be ready to get behind the wheel, and experts say fully self-driving cars are years away.

Still, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), promised earlier this month that a beta of its technology that supports fully autonomous driving without driver intervention will be available in “about a month. “. Toyota rival GM introduced a fully-electric, fully-autonomous flying Cadillac concept vehicle earlier this year.

Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu, Maki Shiraki; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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