Toyota’s commitment to artificial intelligence is also seen as a sign that the company is joining the quest to develop driverless vehicles.
A partnership with Stanford and MIT
The company has committed to investing $50 million in a joint research project with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During the next five years, researchers will study how to make cars safer, as well as how to better help people, particularly the elderly, with enhanced mobility and robotics.
MIT’s research center will focus on making cars capable of recognizing their surroundings and making decisions that will allows them to avoid potential accidents. Ultimately, a car could be created that would be incapable of getting into an accident, according to Daniela Rus, an MIT professor who will lead the school’s partnership with Toyota.
At Stanford, the focus will be on recognition technology as well as on creating artificial intelligence programs. The goal will be predicting behavior so that cars can adjust quickly in situations that could be dangerous.
Toyota also hired Gill Pratt, a robotics expert from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) to help further advance its own artificial intelligence efforts. This division played a major role in the development of self-driving cars, and while he was there, Pratt oversaw a popular challenge that inspired engineers to use robotics to solve problems.
Competition from other companies
The move positions Toyota against other automakers and companies from other sectors that have been working to develop self-driving cars. General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., in fact, have offices not far away from Stanford in Palo Alto, California, that are dedicated to developing smarter cars.
Google wants to develop cars that are completely capable of safely driving without a driver by 2020, and its cars have already been seen on the roads of Mountain View, California as they’re being tested. Uber, the ride-sharing company, has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to try to develop driverless cars.
Toyota, on the other hand, isn’t as optimistic about having a completely driverless car within the next decade. Their researchers will initially focus on designing software that can recognize objects and help human drivers make better judgments.
Toyota's ultimate goal
Ultimately, according to Pratt, Toyota’s goal is to create machines that will increase people’s freedom, independence, and mobility, even when faced with aging-related issues or illness. The company aims to eliminate highway collisions while still making driving a fun experience, he says.