Toyota Motor Corp, Japan’s largest automaker by volume, is seeking additional investments in vehicle and robotic technologies in Israel, after its venture segment led an investment of $14 million in Intuition Robotics this past July.
The startup in Israel, which manufactures robots for the elderly, was Toyota AI Ventures’ first investment in Israel. The venture arm for Toyota is a new fund of $100 million that invests in robotics, autonomous mobility, artificial intelligence, and data and cloud computing
The managing director for Toyota AI Ventures, which is based in California, Jim Adler said that there will be more involvement of Toyota in Israel. The Toyota venture arm is part of the Toyota Research Institute.
There is more down the road for Toyota, said Adler during his visit representing Toyota to Israel. He added that technologies that deal with prediction, planning and perception were of much interest to Toyota.
Perception technology allows an autonomous vehicle to understand what is around it while prediction and planning help a vehicle to interpret situations like whether or not a child at a particular intersection may attempt to cross during a red light.
There is a tremendous amount of new innovation taking place in Israel as vehicles become produced more by data, added Adler, who is visiting the country meeting with companies whose different technologies are of interest to Toyota.
Israel is an expanding center for technology related to autos. Earlier in 2017 Intel Corp acquired Mobileye an autonomous vehicle company which is one of the largest tech firms in Israel, at a price of $15.3 billion.
Last Friday, Continental AG based in Germany said it would acquire Argus Cyber Security in Israel. Argus produces technology that guards connected vehicles from hacking.
Toyota AI Ventures currently has made five different investments and is expecting to invest in 20 or more companies across the globe.
Regarding its Intuition Robotics investment, Adler said many common features exist between autonomous vehicles and robotics. He referred to autonomous vehicles as large robots that have wheels. Intuition Robotics is planning to start trials at the homes of the elderly with its robots in early 2018.
The population of Japan is aging as 40% is expected to be 65 years or old in the next 20 years, said Adler. He added that there would be demand for the types of technologies that help elderly remain in their own homes, instead of moving to assisted-living facilities.