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Toyota Invests $100 Million in AI and Robotic Startups

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Toyota AI Ventures, a subsidiary of the Toyota Research Institute, has invested another $100 million in early-stage startups developing “disruptive technologies and business models in the autonomous mobility and robotics market.”

The subsidiary, which was founded in July 2017 by TRI executive advisor Jim Adler, already made an initial $100 million investment in various startups around the same time, and has since grown its investment portfolio to include 19 startups.

“Auto manufacturers must participate in the startup ecosystem to stay ahead of the rapid shift in the auto industry,” Adler said. “Investing in startups creates long-term relationships that help Toyota explore the latest innovations in mobility.”

Specifically, Toyota is looking for startups that use AI, cloud, and data technologies to “tackle important problems and create new market opportunities.” For example, it has invested in Intuition Robotics, a startup working on cognitive AI-driven social companions, and May Mobility, a startup working on offering communities a Level 4 self-driving shuttle service.

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Toyota has made it repeatedly plain that it believes AI and robotics are not just the key to future automobiles but the key to future mobility and quality of life in general. “The growing interest in automated systems has created great opportunities to improve human lives using AI and next-generation mobility technology,” said Dr. Gill Pratt, CEO of TRI.

The automaker is now focused on what Adler calls the “unbundling of mobility,” referring to services such as ride hailing and micromobility. For Toyota, the future of mobility lies not in personally-owned vehicles but in a shared space of on-demand mobility products and services.

Just last month, Toyota announced a $1 billion investment in the Uber Advanced Technologies Group, which is dedicated to the development of automated ridesharing services.

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