On Thursday, Toyota Motor Corp.’s research division announced it would create an $800 million global investment fund. While important news, Toyota’s dispatch was expected. The business had previously mentioned it was assembling a new holding company called Woven in July, noting that the entity would be focused on heavily upon software development and finding new partners for its most advanced projects.
Most of those seem to be in support of the “mobility as a service” concept that seeks to remove customers’ ability to own vehicles. The rest are interested in promoting alternative energy solutions or social engineering how we’ll be living in the future via “smart cities.” The fund also seems to be helping replace Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD). In fact, the Japanese R&D arm was actually the one that announced the $800 million “global growth-stage investment fund” that officially creates Woven Capital.
Toyota announced the creation of a new holding company that will oversee its software development initiatives this week. While our default response is to gripe about the nebulous concept of “mobility companies” and the industry’s obnoxious emphasis on shifting data, we also understand that it pays to have someone on hand who knows their way around a line of code.
It wasn’t all that long go that Volkswagen was bragging about taking software seriously, only to be publicly shamed by the media when bunk programming screwed up the launch of numerous physical products. The cynical side of the brain knows this could have been avoided by ignoring unnecessary connectivity features and a potentially ill-conceived attempt to digitize the entire cabin.
We’re sympathetic to the nature of competition and the appeal “newness” has on customers. The automotive industry has seen the sea of riches amassed by tech companies harvesting data and knows which way the wind is blowing. No brand wants to be seen as technologically inferior, even if many of the newer features in modern cars aren’t really in service of anything other than marketing. Yet the “software first” mentality that has started presiding over vehicle development seems somewhat counterproductive, and Toyota may have just bought into it hook, line and sinker.
Then again, maybe it’s a great play and we’re just not seeing the big picture. So let’s dive in and see what we find.
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