Automotive

Toyota Research Institute to further AI and robotics research

Toyota Research Institute to f...
Dr. Gill Pratt (L), CEO of Toyota Research Institute, and Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation at the TRI announcement
Dr. Gill Pratt (L), CEO of Toyota Research Institute, and Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation at the TRI announcement
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Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation show a slide of a younger Gill Pratt in front of his Toyota Corolla
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Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation show a slide of a younger Gill Pratt in front of his Toyota Corolla
Dr. Gill Pratt (L), CEO of Toyota Research Institute and Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation at the TRI announcement
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Dr. Gill Pratt (L), CEO of Toyota Research Institute and Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation at the TRI announcement
Dr. Gill Pratt (L), CEO of Toyota Research Institute, and Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation at the TRI announcement
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Dr. Gill Pratt (L), CEO of Toyota Research Institute, and Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation at the TRI announcement
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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.

Source: Toyota

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2 comments
Mel Tisdale
Developed nations have all placed the car at the centre of their society. As a response this initiative from Toyota is refreshing, if long overdue. Anyone who has watched dash-cam videos on YouTube can see that car driving can be made a lot safer, e.g. making it impossible to drive over a red light or break the speed limit would work wonders and relieve the pressure on A & E departments while doing so.
One assumes that they will take the best bits from autonomous driving vehicles and come up with driver assistance packaged vehicles that can be driven safely by longer-lived elderly and by slightly more inebriated individuals than is currently legally allowed. (They can leave those striving for autonomously driven vehicles to continue their forlorn quest until reality eventually dawns on them.)
One assumes that part of the proposed development will include an aircraft type of black box approach that can be used to assess the driving performance of individuals when justified, such as investigation of any accidents they have been involved in. Currently, in the U.K. at least, an elderly person can renew their licence simply by declaring that they are fit to drive (assuming no medical professionals have had cause to report any concerns they have).
We are living in a time of revolution as far as road vehicles are concerned and we need to have a discussion as to how this revolution should take its course. One of the main things that we need to decide is how the current fleet of cars that have minimal driver assistance packages, if any, are going to interact with those coming along as products of this revolution. Imagine vehicles negotiating electronically with each other who goes first in heavy traffic conditions. Do we want to leave it to insurance costs to solve this issue - post revolution vehicles will be safer with lower premiums - or have a shut off date for all cars to meet a standard? And what those standards should be? (We could take the opportunity to have all vehicles globally made in left-hand drive form, relying on driver assistance to make the transition safe.
The revolution can be smooth or extremely difficult. It is up to us to have a discussion regarding how we facilitate the former and avoid the latter.
Stephen N Russell
Lisc tech to other automakers for profit, awesome