Toyota bets big on AI.
During a press conference in Tokyo, Japan today, Toyota Motors announced it is establishing the Toyota Research Institute in the United States, and the primary focus of the company is to research and develop artificial intelligence and robotics for Toyota.
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The company will be situated in Silicon Valley close to the Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, while another facility will be situated close to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and operations will commence at the company by January 2016.
Toyota wants to explore artificial intelligence because of its potentials to sustain industrial technologies. To this end, Toyota is injecting $1 billion over the next five years, and this will be used to fund operations and maintain staff while putting all structures in the facility.
This fund will be in addition to the initial $50 million investment which the company has earmarked in a collaboration with MIT and Stanford over the artificial intelligence research at the universities.
Apart from idea research and product development, the TRI will be tasked with speeding up solutions for which artificial intelligence can be applied to society’s problems within the nearest future. This will ultimately translate to a safer, freer, fulfilled life where everyone will achieve the future with ease.
Toyota’s Executive Technical Advisor, Dr. Gill Pratt, will be the Chief Executive Officer of the Toyota Research Institute, and he will be the one to hire top engineers and researchers to work towards achieving the ultimate objectives of the new enterprise.
According to Dr. Pratt, the initial goals of TRI will be –
- Improve safety by continuously decreasing the likelihood that a car will be involved in an accident;
- Make driving accessible to everyone, regardless of ability;
- Apply Toyota technology used for outdoor mobility to indoor environments, particularly for the support of seniors.
But that is not all, “We also plan to apply our work more broadly, for example to improve production efficiency and accelerate scientific discovery in materials," Pratt said.
Born in 1961, Pratt has a Doctorate degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT, and he taught at MIT as Associate Professor before proceeding to Olin College where he also taught as a professor and helped found.
Pratt established three startups between 1983 and 2005; and he was a DARPA Program Manager, leading projects in Neuromorphic Systems and Robotics, including the DARPA Robotics Challenge from 2010 to 2015. His robotics research influenced the DARPA Robotics Challenge, where humans and robots collaborated for disaster response.
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"As technology continues to progress, so does our ability to improve products,” said Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation. “At Toyota, we do not pursue innovation simply because we can; we pursue it because we should. It is our responsibility to make life better for our customers, and society as a whole. I want to work with Gill, not just because he is a great researcher, but because I believe that his goals and motivations are the same as ours."