Toyota subsidiary Woven Planet Holdings has made its third acquisition in less than a year in its bid to invest in, develop and eventually bring future-of-transportation technologies like automated driving to market.
This time, it's Renovo Motors, the automotive operating system developer based in Silicon Valley that made its first big splash in 2015, when it debuted a video of a self-driving DeLorean developed with Stanford doing autonomous doughnuts. Terms of the deal, which has closed, were not disclosed. Renovo, which will maintain its Silicon Valley office, will be integrated into Woven Planet's 1,240-person operation.
Woven Planet, which earlier this year acquired mapping startup Carmera and Lyft's autonomous driving unit, Level 5, isn't snapping up Renovo for its AV doughnut skills. The company is interested in Renovo's vehicle operating system and how it might help speed up its own efforts.
Renovo developed an operating system designed to run apps in vehicles related to automated driving, maps and other mobility services that might be delivered to riders. The operating system, called AWare OS, works a lot like how Google’s Android allows app developers to launch services in the smartphone market. It can even be compared, in a way, to Amazon Web Services’ on-demand cloud computing platform. This middleware, which is designed to be flexible without compromising security, provides a platform that other companies can use to deploy software.
With just 30 employees, Renovo was a small player in the booming and now consolidating autonomous vehicle industry. And yet, its operating system did get the attention of a number of AV developers such as Voyage, which has since been acquired by Cruise. The company also attracted several investors, including Verizon.
"I think we've become increasingly aware that the IP that Renovo developed was being seen as core to what automotive manufacturers want to do in the future," Renovo co-founder and CEO Chris Heiser said in a recent interview. "As we've built these relationships and tried to understand how do we get to scale — and like, capital S, huge scale — it became increasingly clear to us that we had to find a partner that had the resources and had the backing of an automaker and that had millions and millions of cars to launch on."
Woven Planet sees Renovo's OS as a means to help commercialize its own open vehicle development platform, Arene, that it intends to bring to market by 2025.
Woven Planet Holdings, which folded in Toyota Research Institute -- Advanced Development Inc. or TRI-AD, also includes an investment arm known as Woven Capital and Woven City, a testing ground for new technologies set in an interconnected smart city prototype. In February, Toyota broke ground at the Higashi-Fuji site in Susono City, Japan, at the base of Mount Fuji.
Earlier this year, Woven Capital kicked off off its new $800 million strategic fund by announcing an investment into autonomous delivery vehicle company Nuro.