Toyota Research Institute, the research and development unit for the brand, is now launching a venture capital arm that will be involved in incubating and financing startups who are involved with autonomous mobility, artificial intelligence, and robotics. The institute is providing $100 million, at a minimum, for the new unit called Toyota AI Ventures. This new arm will be involved in managing the three startups that Toyota Research Institute has already made investments in over the last year.
“TRI is growing quickly and we recognize the critical importance of expanding our collaboration with the world’s brightest entrepreneurial talent,” Gill Pratt, TRI’s CEO, said in a statement. “This venture is a major step towards our mission to empower talented entrepreneurs who share Toyota’s commitment to enhancing the quality of human life.”
The automotive company launched AI Ventures only a few days ago and has already chosen the first three companies to back. These include Nauto from Silicon Valley, Intuition Robotics out of Israel, and SlamCore of the United Kingdom. Along with financing, Toyota will be providing basic engineering support and mentoring at its Los Altos, California headquarters.
This company is involved in autonomous vehicle technology and provides a system that offers artificial intelligence powered connected camera networks and a smart cloud system for clients. It is also capable of realizing dangers and alerting drivers of them, as well as giving feedback and coaching at the conclusion of trips. Nauto launched in 2015 as a way to gain understanding of what causes accidents and near accidents in driving in order to provide insights that can be shared with cities to help with street design and traffic control to avoid fatal accidents.
This startup is involved in developing social companion technology that is designed to positively impact the lives of older adults. This is done by offering them connection with friends and family, providing intuitive and accessible technology, and promoting a lifestyle that is more active. This company was started by entrepreneurs and former executives who wished to pursue a desire to create products and technology that would improve the lives of people.
Slamcore closed their first funding round in March of 2017. The company was backed by investors, including Amadeus Capital. They license and develop algorithms and hardware and software solutions which are made to apply to real-time, real-world conditions. The solutions offered are made to apply to many applications, such as autonomous vehicles, drones, mobile robotics, and AR/VR systems. These products take information from sensors like RGB cameras, event cameras, and inertial measurement units and fuses it together to work in a singular way.
Toyota’s new venture capital arm is reaching out to standout startups to ensure they have the funding and technology to make changes that the world needs to see. The three chosen so far are eclectic but innovative and speak to a potential effect that bridges sectors to bring new technology to the masses.