2021 ALL STAR | EMERGING BUSINESS MODEL
Woven Planet Holdings
When Toyota Motor Corp. launched its high-tech Woven Planet Holdings subsidiary at the beginning of 2021, it set in motion a catch-all company developing everything from autonomous cars to smart cities. CEO James Kuffner’s job will be making a business proposition of it all.
Now, Kuffner is not only homing in on the first big product opportunity. The computer whiz originally from Portland, Ore., is already helping guide one of the world’s biggest and most hidebound automakers from its traditional, hardware-centric past into a software-focused future.
In Kuffner’s sights is a new software operating system for automobiles.
Kuffner, 50, calls the upcoming product Arene and says it is the key to “programmable cars.”
Woven Planet says Arene will be as groundbreaking as Microsoft Windows and Apple iOS were for personal computers and smartphones, ushering in a new era for automobiles.
Arene will allow car software to be developed in parallel with hardware, slashing development time. It will also allow cars to be easily updated with the latest technology improvements.
Woven Planet hopes to bring Arene to market around 2025 — first deploying it in Toyota vehicles and then pitching it to other carmakers in a bid to make it a common operating platform.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda is so convinced of the new direction that he appointed Kuffner — a Google driving car project alumnus — as director at the mothership, Toyota Motor.
Kuffner’s rise underscores how software will play an increasingly pivotal role at Toyota.
Woven Planet was created as a holding company to subsume the subsidiary that handled Toyota’s automated driving, Toyota Research Institute — Advanced Development, or TRI-AD.
The entity now oversees two new companies, Woven Core and Woven Alpha.
Woven Core focuses on automated driving. Woven Alpha pioneers new businesses in fields such as connectivity, onboard software and high-definition mapping. Also under its aegis: Woven City, a smart city of tomorrow being built as a living laboratory for testing new mobility models.