Toyota to Spend $50M on AI Research

Artificially-intelligent cars that make decisions for themselves and effectively become self-aware? It sounds like something from the latest blockbuster sci-fi movie, but if Toyota get their way it could become a reality.

Car manufacturers are well-known for their huge spending on research and development. It’s a fundamental aspect of the automotive industry. After all, it’s through R&D that the cars and automotive technology of tomorrow are spawned, sculpted and developed.

But Toyota is looking to take R&D to the next level and is teaming up with MIT and Stanford to do so. The firm’s latest announcement about plans to research artificial intelligence, or AI, will either excite you or terrify you, depending on how you view technology that’s “intelligent”.

While Google’s self-driving pod car and the Audi RS7 are considered revolutionary due to their capabilities, they’re only “smart” cars at the end of the day, not “intelligent” cars.

Autonomous vehicles still currently rely on programming to make decisions. If their software doesn’t contain an action for a given scenario, they simply don’t know what to do. This is what Toyota is hoping to fix.

Over the next five years, Toyota will invest $50 million to establish joint research centres at both MIT and Stanford. Researchers at the centres will focus on developing artificially-intelligent systems that could be used in self-driving cars going forward.

Toyota even poached Dr. Gill Pratt, a program manager and head of the Robotics Challenge at the US government’s shadowy research outfit DARPA.

Toyota Research and Development boss Kiyotaka Ise said in a recent press release: “We will initially focus on the acceleration of intelligent vehicle technology, with the immediate goal of helping eliminate traffic casualties and the ultimate goal of helping improve quality of life through enhanced mobility and robotics.”

Dr. Pratt said: “This bold collaboration will address extremely complex mobility challenges using ground breaking artificial intelligence research. Key program areas will be addressed by the two university campuses and Toyota, with combined research targeted at improving the ability of intelligent vehicle technologies to recognize objects around the vehicle in diverse environments, provide elevated judgment of surrounding conditions, and safely collaborate with vehicle occupants, other vehicles, and pedestrians.”

Toyota believes that artificially-intelligent self-driving cars will not only reduce crashes and improve efficiency, but could also give more people increased mobility. For example, elderly and disabled individuals could be gifted a greater degree of independence, according to Toyota, which even said the technology could have healthcare applications in the future.

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