Toyota invests in process refining AI firms

A fund executive at Toyota Motor Corp’s first venture capital fund is investing in startups that help the Japanese automaker refine everyday processes by bringing sharper supply-chain management and robotics to the factory floor.

The Silicon Valley-based Toyota AI Ventures fund, with $200 million under management, has so far invested in 36 early-stage startups, including self-driving car software firm Nauto, factory video analytics company Drishti and air mobility firm Joby Aviation.

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker by vehicle sales, and many car companies such as Volkswagen AG are funnelling money into startups to help gain an edge in artificial intelligence as investor interest shifts to self-driving cars.

The automaker this year started Woven Capital, an $800 million venture capital fund to make growth-stage investments in companies including those in the Toyota AI Ventures portfolio.