An Autonomous Future

Toyota, the world’s top auto manufacturer, is looking to enter the artificial intelligence and robotics arena with a $1 billion investment into a research company it’s setting up in Silicon Valley, right next to Stanford’s campus. Company president Akio Toyoda says the new research company, aptly called Toyota Research Institute Inc., will be operational starting January 2016 and will be led by high profile robotics expert Gill Pratt, who first joined Toyota as a technical adviser. Pratt says that Toyota’s main goals involve robotic support for the elderly, using AI to make cars accident-free, and making cars easier to drive. “The goal is to do away with the tragedy of car accidents,” says Toyoda.

Growing Competition

Toyota joins a host of other companies developing autonomous vehicles, including not only automakers like Tesla, Nissan and General Motors, but also other tech companies like Google, Uber, and Apple. The new research company is beginning to hire researchers and engineers, and will soon follow up with a second company near MIT. Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer says that “the rapid adoption of advanced technology for the purposes of autonomous driving and connected car services means car companies have to act more like tech startups than traditional automakers.”


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