- Toyota and Panasonic announced plans for a joint venture to work on technology for smart homes and cities that applies research into connected devices for everything from appliances to urban design.
- The two companies will be equal partners on the venture, set to launch in January 2020. The announcement did not name any specific projects, but said it would include applications of Toyota’s mobility as a service (MaaS) platform research to Panasonic’s existing smart home and smart city work.
- "Toyota has been leading the mobility field, and Panasonic has long been serving lifestyle needs of people," said Panasonic president Kazuhiro Tsuga in a statement. "Through this collaboration, Panasonic will further challenge itself to continue advancement in the town development business, aiming to deliver the 'ideal lifestyle' for each customer."
The partnership is the latest example of automakers looking outside their traditional domain amid rapid changes in mobility. As tech companies and mobility platforms like Uber and Lyft have branched into autonomous vehicle research, car companies have likewise reached into alternative transportation, data and tech research. Toyota has already teamed up with SoftBank to work on business applications of autonomous technology through a MaaS platform; the Panasonic venture will expand its work on connected infrastructure.
Acknowledging the role of new partners, Toyota president Akio Toyota told reporters, "if we are able to use this network going forward not only to manufacture and sell vehicles but to also provide new services, our future possibilities will greatly expand," according to Reuters.
Toyota and Panasonic had previously reached a partnership to work on batteries for electric vehicles, part of the automaker’s plan to roll out ten electric models.
Other automakers have similarly looked to housing and smart cities. BMW’s MINI brand, for example, announced in November that it would branch into urban lifestyle areas, including managing an apartment building in Shanghai. Companies like Mercedes, Ford and Hyundai have integrated home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa into their software, to fit them into the smart home concept. Toyota looks to be going even beyond that — not just connecting to the appliances and features in the home and city, but actually creating them alongside Panasonic.