Toyota Announces Major Push Into AI and Robotics, Wants Cars That Never Crash
At a press conference in Palo Alto, Calif., today, Toyota is announcing the first step of what is expected to be a major push into artificial intelligence and robotics, technologies that the company sees as critical for addressing current and future societal challenges. Toyota, the world’s largest automaker by sales, says it will establish two collaborative research centers at MIT and Stanford, with an investment of $50 million over the next five years. The initial focus will be on accelerating the development of AI with applications to smarter and safer vehicles, as well as robots that can make our lives better at home, especially as we age.
Toyota says an immediate goal is to figure out ways to save lives on the road. But the company is very clear that it’s not trying to develop a fully autonomous car in the same way that Google and many others are. Instead, they’re working on assistive autonomy: you’ll be driving most of the time (or at least in control of the vehicle), but the vehicle will be continuously sensing and interpreting the environment around you, ready to step in as soon as it detects a dangerous situation. Toyota believes this approach could make cars virtually crash-proof.
“Our long-term goal is to make a car that is never responsible for a crash,” says Dr. Gill Pratt, who was until just a few months ago the program manager at DARPA responsible for the DARPA Robotics Challenge (among other ambitious robotics programs) and will now direct this research at Toyota. He added that such intelligent cars will “allow older people to be able to drive, and help prevent the one and a half million deaths that occur as a result of cars every single year around the world.”
Dr. Pratt will be working with Professor Daniela Rus, head of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), as well as Professor Fei-Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL).
Earlier this week, we spoke with Pratt, Rus, and Li to get all the details on what we have to look forward to over the next five years.