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Toyota group companies to team up on self-driving tech

Denso, Aisin and two other parts makers plan joint venture

The Toyota group aims to accelerate development of autonomous cars.

NAGOYA -- Four Toyota Motor group members including Denso and Aisin Seiki intend to combine their research and development operations for self-driving vehicles in a joint venture, according to sources.

The new entity -- to be set up by the end of the year at the earliest -- will develop technologies for controlling acceleration, braking and steering based on the judgment of artificial intelligence. The idea is to pool the companies' resources to develop integrated packages of self-driving systems.

The players aim to better compete with European autoparts suppliers such as Germany's Robert Bosch. The autonomous driving competition has also attracted powerful companies from outside the auto industry, including a Google affiliate and China's Baidu. AI -- a focus for the world's tech giants -- plays a crucial role in self-driving systems.

The joint venture will also take investment from Jtekt and Advics, an Aisin subsidiary that produces brakes. Denso is expected to hold the majority stake.

The partnership will primarily supply Toyota but also target European, U.S. and Chinese automakers, aiming to raise the competitiveness of the Toyota group as a whole.

Toyota plans to commercially introduce its self-driving technology, which will enable cars to shift lanes without human intervention on expressways, in its Lexus luxury brand models as early as 2020. By the middle of the next decade, the company aims to develop a more advanced version capable of functioning on ordinary roads and achieve what is known as level 4 automation technology, which enables complete self-driving in limited areas.

In 2016, Toyota set up a subsidiary in Silicon Valley dedicated to artificial intelligence. Another subsidiary set up in Tokyo with Denso and Aisin this past March develops software for implementing AI technologies in cars. The new partnership will incorporate the technology with automotive hardware.

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