Earlier this month, it was reported that Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) would cut costs. However, it's where those savings are being deployed that caught autonomous driving enthusiasts.
Management said the company will slash costs, starting with its marketing and sales budget. Despite churning out record profits, Toyota doesn't plan to take those savings and dump them all to the bottom line. Instead, they're being poured into R&D.
Specifically, Toyota C-suite feels that those funds should be used to explore emerging technologies like autonomous driving. Also worth mentioning is that Toyota see inefficiencies with its sales and marketing spending and is looking to reign in some of the needless spending.
It's not Toyota first foray into emerging technologies and services though. The automaker invested $1 billion in Indian ride-hailing company Grab earlier this month.
Worth noting may be SoftBank's (SFTBY) investment in Grab as well, as the company and its Vision Fund have a number of investments in global ride-hailing platforms. It's largest is in Uber and its most recently notable investment in autonomous driving is Cruise Automation, a company majority-owned by General Motors Co. (GM) .
Some may remember that, earlier this year Toyota put almost $3 billion into its own autonomous driving company. Rather than working on its own, Toyota wanted to create a new company that plays by different rules and operates like a startup. In a way, its not unlike GM's Cruise business, although that came via acquisition rather than outright starting it up.
In any regard, all of these recent moves show that Toyota plans to seriously up its game in the autonomous driving industry.
Right now, we mostly have self-driving features like adjusting cruise control, emergency braking and lane assist. But virtually every automaker is working on autonomous driving technology. Heck, even technology companies are looking to get in on the mix.
It also makes me wonder if Toyota will look to get into the autonomous taxi business. We've already seen that Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) (GOOGL) can succeed with the model, as its Waymo unit has demonstrated in Phoenix over the past year. GM isn't too far behind and Ford Motor Co. (F) is looking to implement a similar strategy. Uber undoubtedly could be next and Nissan (NSANY) is doing something similar in Japan. Perhaps Toyota's investment in Grab was its way of getting involved or maybe it will work on having its own fleet.
One thing is for certain, though, and it's that Toyota plans to have a serious role in autonomous driving.