In an effort to "bring disruptive technology to market faster" Toyota Research Institute (TRI) is investing an initial $100 million to launch Toyota AI Ventures, a new corporate venture capital subsidiary designed to provide early-stage financing to startup technology companies involved in such technologies as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, autonomous driving, and data and cloud technology.
TRI has launched the venture by making contributing initial investments in three technology companies:
- Nauto: Based in Silicon Valley, this company develops a technology system 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. Nauto’s device is based on AI-powered sensors and is mounted inside a vehicle’s dashboard, where it provides visual context inside and outside of the vehicle, and collects data to provide insights. TRI participated in Nauto’s $12M Series A financing in August 2016.
- SLAMcore: Based in Britain, this company develops advanced algorithms designed to help technology platforms like autonomous cars, drones, and augmented reality and virtual reality systems to simultaneously build a map of their surroundings and position themselves within it. participated in SLAMcore’s seed financing in March 2017.
- Intution Robots: Based in Israel, this company develops artificial intelligence robots designed for use as an "active aging companion" for the elderly. The company’s ElliQ active-aging robotic companion features a camera, facial recognition, and machine learning technology to understand user preferences and behavior. TRI participated in Intuition Robotics’ $14M Series A financing in May 2017.
The venture will cultivate select start-ups by offering them mentorship and support on-site at TRI's Silicon Valley headquarters, according to Toyota. Investment will focus on the previously mentioned areas of artificial intelligence robotics, autonomous driving, and data and cloud technology.
"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. "TRI is growing quickly, and we recognize the critical importance of expanding our collaboration with the world’s brightest entrepreneurial talent. 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."
Jim Adler, TRI’s vice president of data and business development will take on the role of managing direct for Toyota AI Ventures.
"We realize that we don't have all of the answers. A lot of disruptive technologies come from startups and we want to help them be successful," said Adler. "One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is knowing if they're building the right product for the right market. We can help them navigate that uncertainty, and we're committed to doing so in a founder-friendly way because their success is our success."
View more information onToyota AI Ventures.
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