Toyota and Honda each announced separate initiatives on Thursday in connected cars and artificial intelligence to stay competitive with emerging tech rivals in Silicon Valley.
Toyota and KDDI Corp. have partnered to establish a global communications platform. The platform will enable the operation of communications networks throughout the world to support car connectivity, Toyota said in a press release.
Honda will establish a Honda R&D Innovation Lab in Tokyo around September to work on “intelligent technologies” beyond mechanical engineering. These will include vehicle connectivity, robotics, brain research, and visual recognition.
The day before that announcement, Honda had showed off two self-driving car prototypes it has used in testing at the GoMentum Station in Concord, Calif.
The projects announced on Thursday appear to emphasize the priorities each automaker is placing on next-generation technologies for autonomous vehicles and safety systems. Silicon Valley tech companies like Google and Uber have been taking the lead on mobility projects.
Toyota invested $1 billion at the end of last year to establish its own Silicon Valley r&d unit to develop artificial intelligence. Last month, it formed a partnership with Uber to explore ride-hailing opportunities and new in-vehicle apps.
Toyota may be close to acquiring two robotics divisions from Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, according to a news story. Toyota may be on track to buy Boston Dynamics, a U.S.-based firm, and Schaft, founded by a University of Tokyo graduate.
Honda has established a satellite operation in California called the Honda Silicon Valley Lab to collaborate with local startups there. The carmaker’s upcoming Tokyo lab will be operated under the company’s research subsidiary, Honda R&D Co.
Toyota’s new venture with Japanese telecommunications company KDDI Corp. will develop uniform data communications modules, or DCMs, for use in any car worldwide. The new DCMs will enable cars to automatically connect with telecommunications carriers in different countries, thereby allowing drivers to bypass global roaming services.
Toyota will be better able to track “big data” generated by its cars, and could enable Toyota to offer better services such as automatic software updates and driver assistance. Toyota said it aims to develop the DCMs by 2019 and make them standard equipment in nearly all new Toyota and Lexus vehicles sold in Japan and the U.S. by 2020.