Toyota is creating a $100 million venture fund to invest in autonomous driving and robotic technology start-ups as automakers increasingly push into the self-driving market, the company announced Thursday.
Toyota AI Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based subsidiary of Toyota, plans to invest the money into early-stage startups that are developing "disruptive" technologies in those fields, the company said.
"Auto manufacturers must participate in the startup ecosystem to stay ahead of the rapid shift in the auto industry," Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures, said in a statement.
The company said the fund is part of Toyota's mission to help "discover what's next" for Japan's biggest automaker. Toyota's AI venture fund has already invested in 19 different start-ups over the last two years, bringing its total funding commitment to autonomous driving technology to $200 million, the company said.
"The growing interest in automated systems has created great opportunities to improve human lives using AI and next-generation mobility technology," Dr. Gill Pratt, chief executive officer at the Toyota Research Institute, said in a statement. Pratt added the fund will help "bridge the gap" between automakers and technology start-ups focused on autonomous transportation.
This is just the most recent investment Toyota is making in the autonomous vehicle market. In April, Toyota and auto-parts supplier Denso said they would together invest $667 million into Uber's self-driving vehicle unit. Toyota also committed to contributing an additional $300 million to Uber's push into self-driving vehicles over the next three years.
At the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota also unveiled a self-driving concept food-delivery vehicle called the e-Pallette. The e-Pallette was part of a partnership with Amazon to help Amazon explore ways to use self-driving cars for food delivery.
Entering the autonomous vehicle market has been a goal for many automakers, with companies including Ford, BMW and Daimler all looking to innovate in self-driving vehicles. In April, Ford said it aims to have 100 self-driving vehicles on the road by the end of 2019. Ford announced in March that it is building a new factory in Michigan to focus on its self-driving vehicle efforts.
BMW and Daimler also said in February that they are collaborating to develop automated driving technologies.