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Toyota chief personally invests $45m in self-driving smart city

Akio Toyoda plots automaker's next 'model change' into cutting-edge tech player

Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda announces plans for the company's "Woven City," to be located at the base of Mount Fuji, at the 2020 CES.   © Reuters

NAGOYA -- Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda has invested 5 billion yen ($45.3 million) of his own money into a group unit building a smart city dominated by self-driving vehicles. 

The investment in Woven Planet Holdings during the last fiscal year ended March was revealed in its annual securities report filed Thursday.

Woven is working on cutting-edge mobility technologies as well as Toyota's "Woven City," a prototype for next-generation cities to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The Tokyo-based unit grew out of a joint venture among Toyota and auto parts makers Denso and Aisin Seiki for self-driving technology, and began operations in January.

It recorded 17.9 billion yen in capital in February and 27.2 billion in May. Barring additional investments, this would put Toyoda's stake in the company at about 20% as of May.

Toyoda last summer said he would be "personally investing a significant amount of [his] own money" into Woven.

"Toyota once experienced a full model change of its business from being an auto loom manufacturer to becoming an automobile manufacturer," he said. "Now is the time for our next model change."

"Rather than relying only upon my thoughts as a president of a company, I felt it necessary to include my own thoughts and passions as an individual imagining the type of world that would be interesting and that would bring smiles to people's faces in the future," he said.

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