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Toyota gets serious about AI and robotics

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 09 November 2015

TOYOTA is setting up a new company, Toyota Research Institute Inc (TRI), to conduct research and development into artificial intelligence and robotics.

TRI’s CEO will be Gill Pratt, Toyota’s Executive Technical Advisor. TRI will hire leading researchers and engineers to support its wide range of activities, which are intended to help bridge the gap between fundamental research and product development.

Dr Pratt earned his doctorate from the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department at MIT, and taught at MIT and Olin College as Associate Professor and Professor, respectively.

He established three startups between 1983 and 2005, and helped found Olin College.

As a DARPA Program Manager, he led projects in Neuromorphic Systems and Robotics, including the DARPA Robotics Challenge, from 2010 to 2015.

TRI headquarters will be located in Silicon Valley near Stanford University, with a second facility to be located near MIT. The new company will begin operations in January 2016.

Toyota believes artificial intelligence has significant potential to support future industrial technologies and the creation of an entirely new industry.

To underscore this belief, it is making an initial investment of US$1 billion (RM4.2bn) over the next five years, to establish and staff the two initial locations and conduct operations.

The investment is in addition to the US$50 million investment over the next five years with MIT and Stanford to establish joint fundamental artificial intelligence research centers at each university.

“Our initial goals are to improve safety by continuously decreasing the likelihood that a car will be involved in an accident; make driving accessible to everyone, regardless of ability; and 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,” Pratt said in a statement.

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