Toyota and its AI Ventures group are reimagining how to design and produce automobiles in the 21st century

Today's market is largely dictated by the moves and strategies of companies that make up our daily lives. For example, Apple's gadgets have permeated how we manage our health through their Apple Health platform, which is now looking to launch its own insurance in 2024. On the flip side, Google (under its parent company, Alphabet) just pulled their Google Translate product from Chinese markets due to rising tensions between the government and the Silicon Valley company.

For the automobile market, it's hard to imagine how different the world would be now without the consistent innovations that churn out into the market. The combustion engine was the first to revolutionize the daily commute, and now we have innovators like Tesla further transforming the landscape with a full push toward EVs.

It's not just the disruptors that continue to move the automobile industry into the future. Toyota has long been an innovator in its own right, creating new technologies and even management strategies in the form of JIT, or the Just-in-Time model, which is the foundational framework for lean manufacturing in general.

Today, it's moving beyond just internal developments and towards supporting external sources of innovation. Through the Toyota Ventures early-capital venture initiative, Toyota continues to innovate through the latest technologies and processes at the cutting edge of automobile development and manufacturing.

A Brief Look at Toyota Ventures

Toyota Ventures is Toyota's early-stage standalone venture capital firm, which looks at early start-ups in the manufacturing, tech, and innovations industries as targets for investments and cultivation. Founded in 2017 and headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, Toyota Ventures was previously known as Toyota AI Ventures but has since renamed itself to be more encompassing of the different businesses under its portfolio. This re-idenitifcation has the added chance of including another round of funding, which brings its total asset management value to over $500 million.

Today, Toyota Ventures has investments in 52 different companies of varying focuses. These companies fall into one of two categories in Toyota's fund, either the Climate Fund or the Frontier Fund.

The climate fund focuses on different aspects of companies working in renewable energies, hydrogen production, storage and transport, carbon capture, and other related climate-oriented initiatives. The frontier fund focuses on projects pushing innovation in different industries, ranging from artificial intelligence, autonomy, mobility, digital spaces, health, fintech, energy, materials, and more. A large part of this fund has key focuses on the advancement of automobile manufacturing, which continues to play a key part in how cars of tomorrow will be made.

Recent Key Toyota Ventures Projects

With the list of invested companies likely to keep growing as Toyota continues to search for promising projects (which it at times acquires), it's highly likely that the next landscape-shifting initiative will have had Toyota's hand in development. Below are some of the invested companies that have the potential in redefining how automobile design and manufacturing will be in the 21st century.

AM Batteries

AM Batteries is a start-up founded in 2021 as part of seed-round funding from TDK Ventures that has since expanded to include investors such as Toyota Ventures. Led by CEO and founder Dr. Yan Wang, AM Batteries is looking to revolutionize how Li-on batteries are manufactured, specifically in the production of the necessary electrodes that make up the integral components to its generation of high voltage in a comparably small unit by mass ratio.

More than just the shortages of lithium and cobalt in the industry, the actual production of the battery is made difficult through expensive solvent management processes and continuously difficult limitations of electrode design to produce better energy efficiencies. Toyota's investment in AM Batteries might prove useful in lowering the eventual hurdles that come with manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, which power most EVs currently in the market.

Apex AI looks beyond just the physical manufacturing and development of cars and toward what makes these machines smarter and more efficient in the future. Having been in the market for roughly 20 years, Apex AI combines the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, and engineering to develop software solutions for the automobile industry.

With Apex AI, Toyota continues the move to more autonomous vehicle development. Moreover, Apex AI's first product, the Apex AI OS, stands to be a flexible operating system based on open-source software that can be applied to automobiles and the extended IoT (Internet-of-Things) ecosystem.


Toyota's investments continue to surround the automobile in lateral ways. Having recently been acquired by Aurora in 2019, Blackmore is a radar and data processing software focused on Frequency-Modulated, Continuous-Wave (FMCW) LiDAR. This advanced technology brings the most advanced aspects of road mapping that can improve vehicle performance, safety, and overall all-weather efficiencies.

As cars begin to gain better and better technologies, Toyota's shift towards software programs that can better govern safety and navigation will be key in shaping what the next set of smart vehicles will look like.

May Mobility

As part of their focus on the businesses in their Frontier Fund, Toyota has also invested in projects that have the potential to have a material impact on the cities and spaces that our vehicles travel in. May Mobility is one such business that looks to reinvent city-commuting with fully autonomous and clean-energy-powered vehicles.

May Mobility is powered by similar technologies that Blackmore is currently developing, showcasing the different possible synergies within its portfolio of businesses. It's in collaborations with companies like this that Toyota can manufacture smarter technologies for the future of what transportation will look like.

The Importance of Technologies in Automobile Manufacturing Today

Toyota has moved far past the days of its Just-in-Time system development, but many of the principles that gave rise to the framework exist in how Toyota Ventures is developing its asset portfolio. The company has a clear understanding that in the design and development of new cars, new innovations focusing on efficiencies and smarter processes are required to continue their competitive edge in the market. Time will only tell which of these businesses will disrupt the market once more. For now, we can look towards what Toyota is planning for the future of their manufacturing systems in their continued partnerships with these innovative companies.

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Published on 

Dec 13, 2022


Automotives & Mobility

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