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Toyota unveils Woven Planet research unit to deliver ‘safest mobility’

Toyota Motor revealed its Woven Planet research unit at a virtual media event on Friday, vowing to provide the world’s “safest mobility” as competition heats up to develop self-driving and connected cars.

In the online presentation, referred to as “The Genesis”, Woven Planet executives gave few hints into specific features in the pipeline but said a new assisted-driving system would be mounted on the automaker’s passenger cars by the end of this year.

The company also said it would be ready to reveal a complete self-driving prototype “in the near future”, without elaborating.

As traditional automakers see competition from the likes of Apple, Amazon and Sony, Toyota is looking to follow Woven Planet’s Silicon Valley approach with its storied Toyota Production System manufacturing process for developing the next generation of cars.

Fully self-driven cars are still likely to be years away, but competitor General Motors this month made an impact at the virtual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a fully-autonomous all-electric flying Cadillac concept, while Chinese search engine operator Baidu revealed a partnership with local car brand Geely.

Led by ex-Google roboticist James Kuffner, Woven Planet also says it has the advantage of scale in gathering data – important to developing artificial intelligence-aided software – through the tens of millions of Toyota cars on the road worldwide. Toyota retook the crown as the world’s best-selling automaker in 2020, unseating Volkswagen AG.

“This is really only the beginning,” Kuffner said in a pre-recorded presentation, where he introduced major executives from the Woven Planet Group, including founding family scion Daisuke Toyoda, son of Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda.

“We’re just getting started with our technology and innovation to change the world,” Kuffner said.

Toyota last year revealed plans for building a prototype “city of the future” called Woven City at the base of Mount Fuji powered by hydrogen fuel cells that would be a laboratory for autonomous vehicles.

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