Toyota acquires stake in AI specialists Preferred Networks

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As manufacturers such as Ford seek ways to get ahead in the race towards self-driving cars, Toyota has boosted its own capabilities through acquiring a stake in Tokyo-based machine-learning specialists Preferred Networks. 

Preferred Networks was separated from software developer Preferred Infrastructure in 2014. Since the split, the company has received significant interest from investors and its value has been climbing rapidly. In August, Fanuc Corp. paid 900 million yen for a 6% stake, valuing the venture at 15 billion yen. Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp said in October 2014 it paid 200 million yen for less than 10% of the company. 

Toyota's current plan is to make some of its cars self-driving on highways around 2020. Although the system would still require driver input whilst off the highway, when driving on the highway the system will be able to change lanes, plus enter and exit the highway without driver input. This would be an upgrade to current driver assistance systems – used by Toyota and other car manufacturers – which help drivers to maintain their distance between cars. 

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