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Toyota setting up AI research facility in Silicon Valley

Toyota is building a research company in Silicon Valley, aimed at creating artificial intelligence and robotics. The Japanese carmaker has announced that it’s investing $1 billion (£660m) in the facility and that it will become operational in January 2016.

It will be located in a Silicon Valley facility, near Stanford University, and will employ 200 people at start. A second facility will be established near Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

The research unit is called Toyota Research Institute Inc, and will be led by high profile robotics expert Gill Pratt.

However, it seems as the facility’s focus will not be exclusively on the cars of tomorrow, even though Toyota does say it will offer driverless cars and other futuristic features. Instead, the focus will be on robotics which can help improve everyday life.

That includes robots to help the elderly and the disabled by picking up and carrying objects, as well as humanlike entertainment robots that can carry on conversations or even play musical instruments.

Dr. Pratt said, “Our initial goals are to: 1) improve safety by continuously decreasing the likelihood that a car will be involved in an accident; 2) make driving accessible to everyone, regardless of ability; and 3) 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, President of Toyota Motor Corporation, said, “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. I want to work with Gill, not just because he is a great researcher, but because I believe that his goals and motivations are the same as ours.”