Toyota is so serious about speeding up autonomous vehicle development that’s it’s about to dump $1 billion dollars into to Silicon Valley to develop artificial intelligence technology. And that’s just for starters.
Friday, the automaker announced it’s going to establish the Toyota Research Institute, a new R&D company that will initially focus on AI and robotics. The headquarters will be located near Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, just south of San Francisco. A second facility will be located near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The new company will begin operations in January 2016.
Why make such a big investment? Well, Toyota says it believes artificial intelligence has significant potential to support future industrial technologies and create an entirely new industry. The $1 billion will be spent over over the next five years. The investment is in addition to the $50 million investment over the next five years with MIT and Stanford to establish joint fundamental artificial intelligence research centers at each university.
“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,” says Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation. “It is our responsibility to make life better for our customers, and society as a whole.”
Toyota’s goal is to help bridge the gap between fundamental research and product development. Its primary mission is to accelerate R&D in a range of fields to help resolve society’s future challenges by using artificial intelligence and big data. Thereby, contributing to a sustainable future where everyone can experience a safer, freer, and unconstrained life.
Directed by Dr. Gill Pratt, Toyota’s Executive Technical Advisor and the Chief Executive Officer of the new enterprise, TRI will hire leading researchers and engineers to support its wide range of activities.
“Our initial goals are to: one, improve safety by continuously decreasing the likelihood that a car will be involved in an accident; two, make driving accessible to everyone, regardless of ability; and three, apply Toyota technology used for outdoor mobility to indoor environments, particularly for the support of seniors. We also plan to apply our work more broadly, for example to improve production efficiency and accelerate scientific discovery in materials,” said Dr. Pratt.
It’s worth nothing that Dr. Pratt previously worked at the U.S. Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.