Toyota has announced that it is investing $1 billion in a research company in Silicon Valley to devise artificial intelligence technology and robotics. It is an investment that reflects Toyota’s aim of becoming a leader in ultramodern self-guided, cutting edge automobiles.
Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corp. President announced on Friday that the company will be operational in January at a facility close to Stanford University, staffed by around 200 employees. A second facility will be built close to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge within the next five years.
The initiative will be headed up by renowned robotics expert Gill Pratt at the newly named Toyota Research Institute Inc.
Pratt was previously a program manager at the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He later joined Toyota as a technical adviser when it established its AI research initiative at Stanford and MIT.
Pratt stated the company’s objectives are to help older individuals in their homes with robots, to make cars accident-free and to use AI to enable people to drive in spite of ability. However Pratt acknowledged that developing a car as smart as a human is still a way off and that there is all to play for in this increasingly competitive market.
The new Toyota company said that it is going to recruit researchers and engineers but competition for the talent is stiff as there is an abundance of competitors such as General Motors, Tesla, Nissan, Google, Apple and Uber already in the market.
Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book stated 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.”