Toyota to spend $1 billion on AI and robotics R&D center
Toyota says it will be investing $1 billion over the next five years in the new Toyota Research Institute, which will be based in Silicon Valley, near Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA), with a second location near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA). According to AI expert Gill Pratt, Toyota’s Executive Technical Advisor and the CEO of the new company, the center will have several initial goals:
1) improve safety by continuously decreasing the likelihood that a car will be involved in an accident
2) make driving accessible to everyone, regardless of ability
3) apply Toyota technology used for outdoor mobility to indoor environments, particularly for the support of seniors.
“We want to create cars that are both safer and incredibly fun to drive," says Pratt in a statement in the New York Times. He goes on to say that, rather than just focusing on completely autonomous vehicles, he sees cars as a collection of sensors and software that will serve as a "guardian angel" for human drivers.
In addition to navigation technologies, the new center will also be looking at how AI might be used to improve Toyota’s factory automation systems and manufacturing capabilities. According to Toyota president Akio Toyoda, "This is the first small step that allows us to go beyond automobiles and make use of the Toyota group’s potential by utilizing artificial intelligence."
The Toyota Research Institute will start operations in January with about 200 planned employees. As planned, the new facility will be one of the largest such research laboratories in Silicon Valley, and could expand as new research areas open up.
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