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Toyota’s Self-Driving Unit Acquires US Mapping Firm Carmera

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Toyota’s self-driving unit, Woven Planet, will now have the benefit of more software mapping through its acquisition of U.S. mapping startup Carmera, the Financial Times (FT) reported.

Woven Planet is currently looking to quadruple its global engineering headcount over the next several years, according to FT.

This follows the Woven Planet acquisition of Lyft’s autonomous driving unit for $550 million in April, which helped give it enough of a boost to start planning much more substantive moves in the space, FT reported.

Woven Planet didn’t share how much it paid for Carmera but said the acquisition would help to increase the company workforce, alongside the Lyft deal, from 860 to over 1,200, according to FT.

Toyota is hoping to build on an existing partnership with Carmera and take the latter company’s machine learning (ML) and geospatial technologies to add to Toyota’s own capabilities for mapping with satellite and aerial imagery, FT reported. The Carmera investment is a significant shift for Woven Planet, which will be looking to do more than just sell cars. It will now also be working on providing mobility services.

Woven Planet and Carmera will be experimenting with affordable components on regular cars, rather than whole new vehicles that come equipped with everything built in, according to FT. This way, normal cars will be able to be configured to recognize changes in lane marking and other road features to gather mapping data.

Among the other recent investments for Toyota is that of Momenta, a Chinese company that had been working on vision-based or camera-based HD mapping. That tech uses camera, GPS and IMU to generate automatic maps, which come with details like traffic signs, poles, lane borders, lights and more.

Toyota also invested in, another Chinese firm, in 2020. It is working with that company on artificial intelligence (AI)-based driving tech. Toyota didn’t have the ability to sell automatic cars in China without a local partner.

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