TOKYO – Toyota, aiming to transform itself into a software company as much as it is a hardware one, is creating a new holding company that will spearhead development of self-driving cars, new automotive computer operating systems and advanced mapping.

The entity, called Woven Planet Holdings, will oversee two other companies, Woven Core and Woven Alpha. Woven Core will focus on automated driving. Woven Alpha will pioneer news businesses in such fields as connectivity, onboard software and high-definition mapping.

Woven Core will subsume the company that currently handles Toyota’s automated driving development, Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development, or TRI-AD.

Toyota announced the initiative on Tuesday, saying the new companies will begin operations in January.  James Kuffner, who is currently the CEO of TRI-AD, will lead all three companies, which will be based in TRI-AD’s current office space in downtown Tokyo.

Kuffner was appointed a board member of parent company Toyota in June, underscoring the Japanese automaker’s prioritization of breaking into the software sector. He joined the company in 2016 after working on robotics and the self-driving car project at Google.

In an interview with Automotive News earlier this month, Kuffner said Toyota aims to be as strong in delivering reliable, robust software as it is at delivering durable, quality cars.

“Toyota has a long history of building an excellent, reliable products and hardware, but building software is something that is a new capability for many traditional automakers,” Kuffner said.

‘Center of excellence’

“My mission is really to create a strong software center of excellence within the Toyota group at Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development and, working with our other partners, and create products that have both good hardware and good software together,” he said. Toyota said one goal is to create a more agile “software-first” development process for cars.

Toyota’s push to strengthen its software