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Toyota to raise stake in Tokyo AI startup

Automaker looks to rev up joint development of self-driving tech

NAGOYA, Japan -- Toyota Motor said Friday it will invest an additional 10.5 billion yen ($94.7 million) in a Tokyo artificial intelligence development venture, purchasing new shares through a private placement.

The leading Japanese automaker and the venture, Preferred Networks, have been researching technologies in such fields as object recognition and data analysis since 2014.

Toyota is already a shareholder in the startup, following a roughly 1 billion yen investment in 2015. It decided to add to its stake, with an eye toward accelerating cooperation in development of autonomous driving systems and other next-generation technologies. Preferred Networks' expertise extends from deep learning, a discipline of machine learning, to big-data processing.

The carmaker has cast a wide net in its quest to develop AI and autonomous driving, striking cooperation agreements with various players outside the auto industry. It tied up with major U.S. graphics chip producer Nvidia in 2016 through a U.S. AI research unit. The Japanese company also established a $100 million venture capital business focusing on startup incubation.

(Nikkei)

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