WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 (UPI) — Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, announced it is investing $1 billion to create a Silicon Valley research company that will develop artificial intelligence and robotics.
The Toyota Research Institute will focus on “smart” cars with self-driving technologies and other technology applications “to improve production efficiency and accelerate scientific discovery in materials.” The new company, which will begin operations in January with about 200 employees, will be located near Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., home to other major companies with eyes on similar technological advances.
“Toyota believes artificial intelligence has significant potential to support future industrial technologies and the creation of an entirely new industry,” the company said. “TRI will help bridge the gap between fundamental research and product development.”
Heading the institute will be Dr. Gill Pratt, a respected AI expert who worked at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Pratt said Toyota has three goals, with the top priority to create “support robots” for domestic situations, including help for the elderly.
“Our initial goals are to: 1) improve safety by continuously decreasing the likelihood that a car will be involved in an accident; 2) make driving accessible to everyone, regardless of ability; and 3) 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.”