Toyota to Launch New Institute for Autonomous Research

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【Summary】Called Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, or TRI-AD, the business is a collaborative venture with Denso and Aisin Seiki.

Michael Cheng    Apr 13, 2018 1:26 PM PT
Toyota to Launch New Institute for Autonomous Research

Since its inception in 2016, the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) has launched several projects in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence and material discovery. Now the establishment is ready to form a new company to focus on autonomous driving technology.

Called Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, or TRI-AD, the business is a collaborative venture with Denso and Aisin Seiki. The group will collectively inject a total of $2.8 billion into the company, over a span of several years (investment ratio: Toyota- 90 percent; Aisin- 5 percent; Denso- 5 percent). To clarify, this pledge is separate from the $1 billion invested in TRI.  

Read on to learn more about TRI-AD and its mission to advance self-driving systems.

New Beginnings

The main goal of TRI-AD is to bring ‘production-quality' driverless platforms to mainstream markets. Essentially, the company will pick up where TRI left off – though TRI isn't actually going any where. In some aspects, TRI-AD refines and develops raw automotive technology, so that it can be used by everyday consumers.

In order to achieve this, the business will seek to employ up to 1,000 employees. Currently, there are 300 employees working for TRI-AD. Furthermore, the facility will be located in Tokyo, Japan.

"Building production-quality software is a critical success factor for Toyota's automated driving program," explained Dr. James Kuffner, currently TRI Chief Technology Officer.

"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."

Once established, Dr. Kuffner will become the new CEO of TRI-AD. Gill Pratt, TRI CEO, will also be joining the business as Chairman of the Board of Directors. The company failed to provide a timeline for the official launch of operations. So far, all three parties have signed a memorandum of understanding. The next step includes the formulation of a joint development agreement.

Autonomous Innovation

The expectations for TRI-AD is high, based on the performance of TRI. Earlier this year, the research company unveiled an SAE-L3 driverless vehicle at CES. At this level, autonomous driving is conducted using LIDAR components and other external sensors. A human driver must still be present at the wheel, with the possibility of intervention, in the event of an emergency.

TRI-AD will likely build on TRI's latest achievement. Hence, an SAE-L4 (or above) autonomous platform could come out the newly formed venture. Vehicles with this level of driverless capabilities require an entirely new design, as there will no longer be a steering wheel, gas pedal and breaking components inside the units. TRI-AD won't be developing new materials or conducting research on new battery components. Such projects are expected to continue in TRI.

"Toyota is known for the quality and efficiency of the Toyota Production System (TPS). I have no doubt that we can translate the fundamental ideas of TPS from the production of hardware to the production of software, and dramatically enhance Toyota's software capabilities," explained Pratt.

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