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GM and Toyota Invest Big in Autonomous Cars

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Just like an approaching trade deadline in sports, automakers are finalizing their automation teams.

General Motors and Toyota have made big plays to firm up their vehicle automation staffs.

GM spent over a billion dollars to acquire a software company called Cruise Automation.  Cruise offered GM the important software capabilities it needs to enable its automated vehicles.

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Similarly, Toyota‘s new entity, called Toyota Research Institute (TRI), brought in-house a company called Jaybridge Robotics.

TRI’s CEO is Gill Pratt, Ph.D.  He is leading a bi-coastal team at MIT in Cambridge Mass., and Stanford in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Related: Ford Expands In Silicon Valley

Followers of automated vehicles may remember that it was DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) that first made them work.  Dr. Pratt was a key part of that team.

East Palo Alto, CA - September 4, 2015: Toyota announces $50 million in funding partnership with MIT and Stanford University for artificial intelligence research collaboration September 4, 2015 in East Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Beck Diefenbach)

Now that the main campuses are set up, Dr. Pratt is bringing in some muscle to get the software finished up.

He commented on the state of affairs at TRI and the new acquisition by saying, “TRI’s mission is to bridge the gap between research and product development in many areas, including artificial intelligence, robotics, and autonomous passenger vehicles.

“The 16-member Jaybridge team brings decades of experience developing, testing, and supporting autonomous vehicle products which perfectly complements the world-class research team at TRI.”

Jaybridge knows a thing or two about automated vehicles.  The company is presently a supplier to the heavy-industry and farming segment, both of which already have automated vehicles in operation.

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GM’s Cruise team will fill a similar role.  In a statement GM said it brought Cruise Automation to GM, “to add Cruise’s deep software talent and rapid development capability to further accelerate GM’s development of autonomous vehicle technology.”

These new acquisitions are coming late in the game.

Both GM and Toyota already have self-driving vehicles, and both have the technology they need to provide driverless vehicles to the public.However, they know they will need a final push when the time comes to begin introducing the new technology to the masses.

These late-season acquisitions remind this author of the way that pro sports teams make late season roster changes in preparation for the playoffs.  The core of the team is already in place, but the teams want to shore-up some areas that they know will be critical when crunch time comes.

John Goreham

John Goreham