Toyota to make US$1B artificial intelligence, robotics R&D push in US

A new R&D center will open in January, headed by a former DARPA scientist

Toyota plans a major push into artificial intelligence and robotics technology research and will invest US$1 billion over the next five years to establish a Silicon Valley research and development center to pursue those goals.

The Toyota Research Institute will be led by Gill Pratt, who recently joined Toyota from DARPA where he ran the Robotics Challenge, an event that promoted work on robots that can work with humans.

"The goal of the Toyota Research Institute is to bridge the gap between fundamental research and product development, particularly of life saving and life improving technologies," said Pratt at a Tokyo news conference on Thursday.

It will be established in January and be based close to Stanford University and have a second campus near MIT near Boston. Over the next few years, it will grow to around 200 scientists and engineers.

Initial research at the center will focus on the way people and machines can work together, particularly in the area of mobility, he said.

When it opens, it will have three goals in the areas of safety, accessibility and robotics.

In safety, the goal will be to make driving safer and prevent car accidents, no matter what the driver does. In the area of accessibility, it will seek to help everyone benefit from the mobility of cars, regardless of demographics or physical condition. And in robotics, it will work on technology that can improve the quality of life of all people, in particular seniors.

It will work alongside two research centers Toyota is establishing with Stanford University and MIT. The car maker is investing an additional $50 million in those under an agreement announced in September.

The goals are lofty but they aren't new areas of research for the company. Like many large Japanese companies, Toyota engages in fundamental research into technology that may not become products for years.

The work is low profile, but occasionally it makes headlines. In 2009 for example, Toyota showed off a brain-machine interface system that allowed a person in a motorized wheelchair to control it with just their minds.

Toyota already faces competition in some of these research areas from the likes of Google, which has been working on autonomous car technology for several years and already has prototype cars driving on public streets near its Silicon Valley headquarters.

But in Tokyo on Friday, Pratt said he wasn't worried about the head start that Google has.

"It is possible at the beginning of a car race that you may not be in the best position," he said. "It may be that other drivers are saying a whole lot about what there position is and everyone may expect that a particular car will win. But if the race is very long, who knows who will win?"

"The problem of adding safety and accessibility to cars is extremely difficult and the truth is, we are only at the beginning of this race," he said."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?