Toy­ota in­vests $1 bil­lion in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence in US

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Wheels - Busi­ness Writer) (YURI KAGEYAMA/AP

TOKYO — Toy­ota is in­vest­ing $1 bil­lion in a re­search com­pany it’s set­ting up in Sil­i­con Val­ley to de­velop ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ro­bot­ics, un­der­lin­ing the Ja­panese au­tomaker’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to lead in fu­tur­is­tic cars that drive them­selves and ap­ply the tech­nol­ogy to other ar­eas of daily life.

Toy­ota Mo­tor Corp. Pres­i­dent Akio Toy­oda said Fri­day the com­pany will start op­er­at­ing from Jan­uary 2016, with 200 employees at a Sil­i­con Val­ley fa­cil­ity near Stan­ford Univer­sity. A sec­ond fa­cil­ity will be es­tab­lished near Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Cam­bridge.

The in­vest­ment, which will be spread over five years, comes on top of $50 mil­lion Toy­ota an­nounced ear­lier for ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence re­search at Stan­ford and MIT.

Toy­ota said its in­ter­est ex­tended be­yond au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, which is start­ing to be of­fered by some au­tomak­ers and be­ing promised by al­most all of them. The tech­nol­ogy was point­ing to a new in­dus­try for ev­ery­day use, de­liv­er­ing a safer life­style over­all, it said.

Toy­ota has al­ready shown an R2-D2-like robot de­signed to help the el­derly, the sick and peo­ple in wheel­chairs by pick­ing up and car­ry­ing ob­jects. The au­tomaker has also shown hu­man-shaped en­ter­tain­ment ro­bots that can carry on con­ver­sa­tions and play mu­si­cal in­stru­ments. As the world’s top auto man­u­fac­turer, Toy­ota al­ready uses so­phis­ti­cated ro­botic arms and com­put­ers in auto pro­duc­tion, in­clud­ing do­ing paint jobs and screw­ing in parts.

To drive home the mes­sage that the au­tomaker’s vi­sion was more than about just cars, Toy­oda ap­peared at a Tokyo ho­tel with high pro­file ro­bot­ics ex­pert Gill Pratt, who will head the new or­ga­ni­za­tion called Toy­ota Re­search In­sti­tute Inc.

Pratt was for­merly a pro­gram man­ager at the US mil­i­tary’s De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency. He joined Toy­ota as a tech­ni­cal ad­viser when it set up its AI re­search ef­fort at Stan­ford and MIT.

Pratt said the com­pany’s goals are to sup­port older peo­ple in their homes with ro­bot­ics, make cars free of ac­ci­dents and use AI to al­low all peo­ple to drive re­gard­less of abil­ity.

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