Toyota has announced plans to open a new division called Toyota Connected in the United States, focused on building new car technology and humanizing technology added into cars.
The new division will be located in Plano, Texas, and will employ around 100 people. Toyota has purchased a 20,000 square foot factory to test the new technologies, and has a budget of $5.5 million.
Toyota has partnered with Microsoft Azure to build the car technologies. We’re not sure how active Microsoft will be on the building side, we assume it will just provide its cloud services and not be involved in the building process.
“Toyota Connected will help free our customers from the tyranny of technology,” Zach Hicks, chief information officer and vice president of Toyota Motor North America said. “From telematic services that learn from your habits and preferences to use-based insurance pricing models that respond to actual driving patterns to connected vehicle networks that can share road condition and traffic information, our goal is to deliver services that make lives easier.”
Some of the automakers planned services – from health monitoring to dinner reservations systems – could be offered to customers over the air by being beamed directly into their connected Toyota, but the firm stresses that privacy concerns will be at the forefront.
New Toyota division looking at AI, self-driving technologies
The new division comes as the Japanese automotive giant starts to invest more into artificial intelligence and self-driving cars. It has already invested $1 billion into the Toyota Research Institute, with centers at Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology dedicated to designing and testing automation services for cars.
Toyota is the largest car manufacturer in the world, so the investment into future automation is a green light for rival manufacturers to begin similar tests. General Motors, Ford, Audi, BMW, and Tesla are already testing self-driving features, though some are shooting for full automation while others are just testing automatic parking and lane switching.