Toyota Research Institute’s ancillary, Toyota AI ventures, reserves $100 million to concentrate on finding & funding robotics and autonomous vehicle upstarts. Toyota is dubbing this as Fund II, bringing the company’s total reserve fund to $200 million.
“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, chief executive officer at TRI and Toyota AI Ventures investment committee member.
Toyota AI Ventures launched circa 2017 and is comparatively a new entrant to the landscape. However, the company has managed to fund 19 start-ups in a short span, some of which are –
- May Mobility
- Intuition Robotics
- Joby Aviation
Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures commented for a science daily. He said that “primary aim isn’t changing. However, the firm is also interested in what we describe as “unbundling mobility. One of the things that we want to explore with Fund II is the unbundling of mobility. The personally-owned vehicle has provided tremendous safety, freedom, convenience, and fun. What we’re now seeing is a phase of unbundling such as ride-hailing, micro mobility, etc. There are investment opportunities where autonomous technologies might accelerate these unbundled mobility products and services.
While a handful of companies appear to control the looming robotaxi business, profitable business models are still being proven. He also believes there’s still space in the related sensor industry for startups.
For the various operating design domains, there’s no clear winning mix of cameras, radar, lidar, and ultrasound. There’s still room to run.”
Extensive capital has been pouring into the autonomous mobility landscape. Nowadays, the industry sees a plethora of companies that build products around mapping, sensors and end-to-end Autonomous vehicle development. Surprisingly, this industry did not exist two decades ago.