Toyota Motor Corp. is tapping a star Silicon Valley robotics expert to help put the final touches on an operating system it says will go up against that of Tesla Inc. Called Arene, the system allows new features to be installed in a car's existing hardware over the air and provides a platform for developers to create software. It's being developed by Toyota's new technology research arm Woven Planet Holdings Inc., led by Chief Executive Officer James Kuffner, a former Google engineer. Tesla is already a leader when it comes to over-the-air updates of a car's operating systems, which control everything from braking to Wi-Fi, locking and lights. It has been upgrading its electric vehicles' battery range and autonomous functions remotely via updates since 2012. On an earnings call last week, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said Tesla is willing to license its software capabilities to third parties and is already in talks with original equipment manufacturers.
The car, however, didn't work as advertised. It could drive, turn corners and stop on a dime. But the fancy technology features VW had promised were either absent or broken. The company's programmers hadn't yet figured out how to update the car's software remotely. Its futuristic head-up display that was supposed to flash speed, directions and other data onto the windshield didn't function.