TOKYO — Toyota and Honda have unveiled separate initiatives for car connectivity and artificial intelligence, the latest moves by Japan’s auto industry to counter emerging tech rivals in Silicon Valley.
Toyota has formed a partnership to create a global communications platform that will support unified car connectivity worldwide, rather than relying on varying networks in different markets.
Meanwhile, Honda will establish a Honda R&D Innovation Lab in Tokyo around September to work on “intelligent technologies” beyond mechanical engineering, such as vehicle connectivity, robotics, brain research and visual recognition.
The projects, announced independently on Thursday, June 2, underscore a new urgency felt by Japanese automakers to invest more in next-generation technologies for autonomous driving and safety systems. They are stepping up as entrants from outside the industry, such as Google and Uber, take the lead in the fields.
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.
The world’s largest automaker is also reportedly in talks to buy two robotics subsidiaries from Google-parent Alphabet Inc.
Honda, also pursuing autonomous driving technologies, 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 builds a partnership with Japanese telecommunications company KDDI Corp. to develop uniform data communications modules, or DCMs, for use in any car worldwide.
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. It will gradually introduce the technology to other markets after that.
The new DCMs will enable cars to automatically connect with telecommunications carriers in different countries, thereby allowing drivers to bypass global roaming services.
This will enhance vehicle connectivity to the internet and enable Toyota to better track big data generated by its cars. The unified platform may also enable Toyota to offer better services such as automatic software updates and driver assistance.