Toyota Launches Venture Capital Unit Targeting Artificial Intelligence Startups

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Toyota has launched its first venture capital unit.

The VC arm, called Toyota AI Ventures, will aim its capital at startups leveraging artificial intelligence technologies such as autonomous driving, robots, and data analytics.

Toyota AI Ventures, a subsidiary of the Toyota Research Institute, has already invested in three companies: Nauto, SLAMcore and Intuition Robotics.

“Toyota has a history of disruptive innovation in the service of mankind, moving from textile machinery to automobiles in the late 30’s, to the broad electrification of the automobile with Prius in the 90’s, to autonomous mobility and human-assist robots,” said Gill Pratt, CEO of TRI. “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.”

Based in Silicon Valley, Nauto provides a technology system designed for professional drivers and fleet managers that monitors drivers and the road environment to prevent collisions, improve driver behavior, and learn from the diverse data shared across its smart cloud network.

SLAMcore, based in Britain, develops advanced algorithms designed to help technology platforms like autonomous cars, drones and AR/VR systems to simultaneously build a map of their surroundings and position themselves within it.

Israel-based Intuition Robotics’ technology is designed to positively impact the lives of millions of older adults by connecting them with family and friends, making technology accessible and intuitive, and promoting an active lifestyle.

“A lot of disruptive technologies come from startups and we want to help them be successful,” added Jim Adler, TRI’s vice president of data and business development, who will take on the role of managing director of Toyota AI Ventures. “We can help [entrepreneurs] navigate uncertainty, and we’re committed to doing so in a founder-friendly way because their success is our success.”

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