The Toyota Company is investing over $50 million dollars into Artificial Intelligence and Robotic research with MIT and Stanford in the hopes of improving “mobility of people and cars”.
From The Detroit Free Press:
Toyota officials in Palo Alto, Calif., Friday announced that the Japanese automaker will invest $50 million over the next five years in research centers at the two prestigious U.S. universities. The joint research centers will develop intelligent vehicles and other mobility technologies for a society that is aging and seeking new ways to move as well as cities increasingly challenged by traffic congestion.
The investment is an extension of Toyota’s belief that everyday living can be improved through technology that uses artificial intelligence. Breakthroughs in robotics and intelligent vehicles can also help the heath-care system support the physically infirm, officials said.
“We’re here today to mark the beginning of an unprecedented commitment,” said Kiyotaka Ise, chief officer of Toyota”s R&D Group, during a webcast of the California press event. “We will initially focus on the acceleration of intelligent vehicle technology, with the immediate goal of helping eliminate traffic casualties and the ultimate goal of helping improve quality of life through enhanced mobility and robotics.”
Toyota also announced that Gill Pratt, the former program manager at DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and leader of the Robotics Challenge, has joined the company to oversee the research as executive technical director.
Pratt wants to avoid the need to take car keys from an aging parent; or move people from their homes into care facilities.
“Autonomy is not just for machines,” he said. He wants to give people the ability to move about safely, regardless of limits of age or illness. That movement can be in a car, or within the home.
“This bold collaboration will address extremely complex mobility challenges using ground breaking artificial intelligence research,” Pratt said.
In terms of autonomous driving, Toyota may not have shown off autonomous cars like the competition or Google, but it has competitive driver-assist technologies from 20 years of research, Ise said.
The harder work is developing artificial intelligence systems, Pratt said. For the car’s intelligent systems to intervene, the vehicle must be aware of what is going on around it and know better than the driver what action to take. And it can do no harm.
“We want to solve the harder part of the problems as well,” Pratt said. “We think the race has just begun.”
Research at the new centers will work to improve the ability of intelligent vehicle technologies to recognize objects around the vehicle, assess conditions and make safe decisions on behalf of the vehicle occupants, other vehicles and pedestrians.
The research center at MIT will be led by Professor Daniela Rus, director of the institute’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
Rus called it the “beginning of the end for traffic accidents,” in the belief computing can make cars better in efforts to prevent car crashes that occur every five seconds in the U.S. and have an economic cost of $277 billion a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Intelligent vehicles “will play a major role in helping reduce traffic casualties, and potentially even helping us develop a vehicle incapable of getting into a collision,” Rus said.
The Stanford research center will be led by Professor Fei-Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Work will continue on using computers, intelligent machines and data analysis to help vehicles perform in complex traffic situations.
“Technology is shaping our lives more than ever,” Li said.
Toyota has been developing robots for industrial use since the 1970s. About 2000 Toyota started work on using robotics to improve a person’s mobility.
“I am very excited about what this new venture means for Toyota, and I look forward to more announcements in the future,” Ise said.
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