Toyota venture to spend $2.8 billion to develop self-driving technology

An onboard display monitor shows other vehicles as a staff member of Toyota Motor Corp drives its self-driving technology "Mobility Teammate Concept" prototype car hands-free on the Metropolitan Expressway during the Toyota Advanced Technologies media preview in Tokyo, Japan, October 8, 2015. Reuters/Yuya Shino/File Photo

TOKYO, JAPAN — Toyota Motor Corp said a new venture would be investing more than $2.8 billion (2.03 billion pounds) to develop automated-driving software – the latest salvo in an increasingly frenetic battle to be ahead in a sector hit by a slew of disruptive technologies.

The Tokyo-based venture, which will bring together some 1,000 employees including new hires, will be 90 percent held by Toyota with group suppliers Denso Corp and Aisin Seiki Co each taking 5 percent.

“This company’s mission is to accelerate software development in a more effective and disruptive way, by augmenting the Toyota Group’s capability through the hiring of world-class software engineers,” James Kuffner, who will lead the venture, said in a statement.

The establishment of the new venture, Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, comes as firms such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and Tesla Inc give traditional automakers a run for their money in building self-driving and electric cars.

English is set to be the main business language of the new venture, the statement said.

Toyota is also investing $1 billion in artificial intelligence and other technologies through its U.S.-based Toyota Research Institute, and has struck up technology partnerships with Microsoft Corp and Uber Technologies.

Last month, Toyota Research Institute’s venture capital unit said it was co-leading an $11.5-million seed investment in May Mobility, an Ann Arbor-based startup that is developing self-driving shuttles for college campuses, central business districts and similar low-speed applications.