Committing US$1 billion over the next five years, Toyota Motor Corporation has announced the establishment of the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), a research and development center initially focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. The company is tasked with developing technologies to increase driving safety and improve mobility and quality of life, particularly for the elderly.
The new company will be headquartered near Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, with a second facility to be located near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The $1 billion investment comes on top of $50 million Toyota announced in September to establish collaborative research centers at the two universities to study how humans interact with machines.
TRI will be headed by Dr. Gill Pratt, Toyota's Executive Technical Advisor and the Chief Executive Officer of the new enterprise. Dr. Pratt is a roboticist and a former official at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) where he headed up the DARPA Robotics Challenge from 2010 to 2015. He’ll oversee a staff of 200, consisting mostly of researchers and scientists, once the facility is fully operational.
TRI's initial focus will be on technologies intended to improve the safety and accessibility of vehicles through looking at the way people and machines work together. As such, accident avoidance and expanding driving opportunities to everyone regardless of ability will be the goals, rather than the development of fully autonomous vehicles.
But Toyota also has wider aspirations for the company, with big data and robotics research aimed at improving the quality of life for everyone, not just drivers. Leveraging technologies developed for the outdoor for use in indoor environments to allow seniors to remain in their own homes regardless of age or infirmity will be a particular focus. Dr. Pratt added that TRI would also work on improving production efficiency and accelerating materials research.
TRI will begin operations in January 2016.