Toyota announced the establishment of a new company, Toyota Research Institute, as an R&D enterprise focusing on artificial intelligence and robotics.
The Japanese company believes artificial intelligence will play a crucial role in future industrial and automotive technologies and will eventually spawn an entire new industry. With the first semi-autonomous vehicles already here, they do have a point.
The headquarters of TRI will be located near Stanford University in Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, California, with a second facility near MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Operations will begin in January 2016 with Toyota making an initial investment of $1 billion over the next five years to establish and staff the two initial locations with approximately 200 employees. In addition to this, Toyota will invest $50 million over the next five years with MIT and Stanford for the launch of joint fundamental AI research centers at each university.
TRI wants to bridge the gap between fundamental research and real product development of life-saving and life-improving technologies, its primary goal being to accelerate the R&D process with the use of artificial intelligence. The new company will focus first on collaborative autonomy and artificial intelligence ― the way people and machines can work together, particularly in the area of mobility. Dr. Gill Pratt, Toyota’s Executive Technical Advisor will be the boss of the Toyota Research Institute.
“Our initial goals are to: 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; and 3) apply Toyota technology used for outdoor mobility to indoor environments, particularly for the support of seniors”, said Dr. Pratt. “We also plan to apply our work more broadly, for example to improve production efficiency and accelerate scientific discovery in materials.”
Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota, added: “As technology continues to progress, so does our ability to improve products. 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.”