Toyota’s self-driving division uses software to promote the acquisition of U.S. map startups


Toyota’s self-driving division has acquired the American map startup Carmera, because the Japanese group has begun to buy software in a big way, with a view to quadruple its global engineering staff in the next few years.

Carmera, headquartered in New York, is Woven Planet’s second acquisition after it. $550 million acquisition Lyft’s self-driving division, with financial support from the world’s largest automaker in April, the Toyota subsidiary said it would “bigger” to build its global software footprint.

Although the purchase price of Carmera was not disclosed, the deal with Lyft will expand Woven Planet’s 860 employees to more than 1,200.

“I hope to double or quadruple Woven Planet in the next few years,” said James Kuffner, head of the department and chief digital officer of Toyota’s board of directors, in an interview.

“This means that we will actively recruit, acquire, establish partnerships, and, where meaningful, introduce complementary and strategic companies to the Woven Planet Group,” he added.

Carmela was founded in 2015 Raised 20 million US dollars In 2018, in the B round of financing led by Google’s venture capital arm GV.

Automakers and technology groups are racing to develop accurate and real-time Digital map technology, Which is considered essential to the expansion of autonomous vehicles.

Building on the existing partnership, Toyota hopes to combine Carmera’s machine learning and geospatial technologies with its own mapping capabilities using satellite and aerial imagery.

Maps are an important investment area for Woven Planet, because Toyota hopes to shift from simply selling cars to providing mobile services in the era of autonomous driving.

Instead of using specialized vehicles equipped with sophisticated cameras and radars, Woven Planet and Carmera try to use affordable components on ordinary cars so that they can recognize changes in lane markings and other road features to collect map data.

“The unfortunate fact is that the mapping technology on many vehicles now requires a lot of expensive equipment. Unfortunately, once the data is collected, it will become obsolete because the world will not remain stationary,” Kuffner said.

He added that Toyota is ready to create a system that can provide high-quality and up-to-date map data because it already has 100 million cars on the road.

But analysts said that after decades of focusing on the mass production of hardware, Woven Planet, which was created in January, faces a huge challenge in building Toyota’s software capabilities.

Kuffner said: “When some other companies are downsizing to actually double their efforts and achieve real growth, we have this opportunity.” “I want to grow fast, but not so fast that we lose our culture or Focus.”



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