Car Industry

Toyota's self-driving software research gets $2.8B boost

The automaker is partnering with two suppliers to forge its own path toward full autonomy.

Toyota Research Institute

Some automakers are content to rely on the work of others to create a self-driving vehicle. Toyota, on the other hand, appears ready to go its own way -- with a bit of help.

Toyota announced today that it's teaming up with two suppliers to create a new venture called Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD... get it?). The goal is to accelerate Toyota's efforts in developing and deploying "fully integrated, production-quality software" for use in self-driving vehicles.

Expect to see more of this guy over the next couple years.

Toyota Research Institute

In conjunction with its partners Denso and Aisin, TRI-AD will hit the ground running with more than $2.8 billion in investments. This includes fleshing out the group's staff to a meaty 1,000 employees, many of which will be engineers. The group will have its headquarters in Tokyo, but it will use English as its primary business language.

The Toyota Research Institute, from which TRI-AD borrows part of its name and purpose, was established in 2016 to advance the automaker's efforts in tech research, including AI, robotics and autonomous vehicles.

Last year, TRI unveiled a dual-mode autonomous driving system. The first mode, Chauffeur, provided active self-driving for those who would prefer to be driven. The second mode, Guardian, is for the drivers, only intervening when things get really hairy. Its system is still a few years away from becoming reality, but it's nice to see an automaker remember that autonomy can benefit drivers as well as those who'd prefer to give up control entirely.

"Building production-quality software is a critical success factor for Toyota's automated driving program," said Dr. James Kuffner, newly appointed CEO of TRI-AD, in a statement. "This company's mission is to accelerate software development in a more effective and disruptive way, by augmenting the Toyota Group's capability through the hiring of world-class software engineers. We will recruit globally, and I am thrilled to lead this effort."