Toyota Is Taking Another Step Towards Self-Driving Cars

Japan's auto giant Toyota demonstrates autonomous driving with a Lexus GS450h on the Tokyo metropolitan highway during Toyota's advanced technology presentation in Tokyo on October 6, 2015. Toyota is expecting to commercialise autonomous vehicles before the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Yoshikazu Tsuno — AFP via Getty Images

Toyota (TM) is putting more money toward making self-driving cars a reality.

The Japanese automaker is buying a 3% stake for $8.2 million in Tokyo-based artificial intelligence firm Preferred Networks. Toyota has been working with the company since October of last year. The Wall Street Journal reports that the deal is expected to close by the end of the year. Toyota announced in October that it wants to put self-driving cars on the road by 2020, and this investment suggests that the company is taking another step towards developing autonomous vehicles.

Toyota’s corporate communications manager Aaron Fowles told Fortune the carmaker is particularly interested in Preferred Network’s “research into intelligent vehicle technology—the foundation of advanced driving support systems.” He added that the firm’s research “is in line with [Toyota’s] focus to develop systems in the image processing field, where cars can have higher cognitive performance relative to that of a human driver.”

Preferred Networks has seen investments from other big-name companies as well, including Apple (APPL), which the Journal reports bought a 6% stake in Preferred three months ago.

This is just Toyota’s latest investment in AI technology. Fortune reported in September that the company plans to spend $50 million over the next five years to create joint research centers in a partnership with Stanford University and MIT. It also devoted $1 billion over the same time period to the “Toyota Research Institute,” a Silicon Valley-based AI research center.

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