Toyota places $1bn bet on robot technology


Alan Tovey Industry Editor

November 10, 2015

World’s biggest car company to invest $1bn on robots and artificial intelligence as it looks to the future

Toyota is placing a $1bn bet on robots and artificial intelligence being major future technologies by setting up a new research and development unit to investigate their uses.

The world’s biggest car company will spend the money over five years to establish the Toyota Research Institute near Stanford University in Silicon Valley, with a second facility at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

It is our responsibility to make life better for our customers, and society as a whole
Akio Toyoda, Toyota president

The Japanese industrial giant said that it “believes artificial intelligence has significant potential to support future industrial technologies and the creation of an entirely new industry”.

Investment in the research institute will be spread over five years and Toyota said it hopes the centre will “bridge the gap between fundamental research and product development”.

The institute’s primary mission will be to speed up development of robots and artificial intelligence and to “help resolve society’s future challenges by using artificial intelligence and big data…contributing to a sustainable future where everyone can experience a safer, freer, and unconstrained life”.

Toyota has appointed its executive technical adviser Gill Pratt as chief executive of the new enterprise. Work will start on the institute in January 2016 and the company is now looking to hire stars of the sector to work there.

Although the institute’s work is likely to be biased towards the automotive sector, it is thought it will have spin off uses in adjacent fields.

Toyota already has a “ Partner Robot ” programme (pictured left), which is developing automatons for fields such as entering people living alone, assisting with housework and mobility for the infirm. It also has industrial applications such as manufacturing.

Dr Pratt said: “Our initial goals are to improve safety by continuously decreasing the likelihood that a car will be involved in an accident, make driving accessible to everyone, regardless of ability, and 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.”

Akio Toyoda, Toyota president, added: “As technology continues to progress, so does our ability to improve products. At Toyota, we do not pursue innovation simply because we can; we pursue it because we should. It is our responsibility to make life better for our customers, and society as a whole.”

This article was written by Alan Tovey Industry Editor from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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