Image: Car Design News

Toyoda Gosei – a Toyota Group company manufacturing rubber and plastic automotive components – is setting up a corporate venture capital department, specifically to invest in start-ups and accelerate innovations. Effective from January 2019 with a three-billion yen budget through till December 2020, this is said to enable it to act flexibly and quickly to commercialize new technologies and products in four target areas: robotics, semiconductors, next-generation automotive parts, and materials.

Key projects already underway at Toyoda Gosei as part of its recently-launched 2025 Business Plan include modular automotive products for HMI (human-machine interface) said to “serve as a bridge between humans and automobiles in autonomous driving”, and electrically-powered, digitized ‘e-rubber’: this can serve in applications including an ‘artificial muscle’ for robots, and for tactile or pressure sensors. This was previewed at the 2017 Tokyo motor show by the Flesby II concept [pictured], which featured a soft, flexible and absorbent airbag-style external ‘skin’, underlit with LEDs for communication with pedestrians and other road-users.

FCA to form insurance-sector partnership  

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, meanwhile, intends to form a partnership with insurance firm Generali Country Italia. The two companies have signed a letter of intent to explore insurance products and services for the automotive and connected vehicles sector; these will involve technological and telematic systems with a view to increasing personalization for customers. FCA cites ‘Real Time Coaching’, a driver monitoring system with real-time alerts and specific algorithms to detect driving dynamics and style, as an example of these, as well as usage-based insurance for connected cars, and the development of mobility services.

Volvo Financial Services launches fintech lab

Similarly looking to access the latest independent developments and thinking, Volvo Financial Services (part of the Volvo Group manufacturing trucks and buses) is launching a program called iLabX, with the aim of accelerating digital business solutions and technologies, and fintech (financial sector technologies) in particular. It describes the program, held in partnership with L Marks, a corporate innovation consultancy, as an innovation lab for entrepreneurs.

VFS is looking for entries in four categories: ‘build an exceptional customer journey’, i.e. solutions for accessing and purchasing Volvo Group vehicles, parts and services, and financial services; ‘financing next generation transport solutions’, i.e. platforms for faster and easier vehicle or mobility service access; ‘digital transformation for business excellence’, to improve business performance; and ‘wildcard’ – financial services solutions for 10-20 years’ time rethinking business models, capital, credit and risk evaluation, and capital flows.

Initial submissions to participate are invited up to December 2, 2018, and 15 finalists in each category will pitch their ideas to VFS’s senior leadership. Up to six of these finalists will then get to join a 10-week program at the VFS headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA, with fundraising support and access to experts including investment professionals.