Toyota announced $50 million investment in AI-powered cars during a press conference held today.
In a market increasingly interested in the development of autonomous technologies powering our vehicles, including fully autonomous cars, Toyota decided to join the ranks. The 50 million dollars investment is to be directed in a joint research venture featuring the brightest of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Mainly, the funds will be used to build joint research centers at the two top-notch institutions. The joint research centers will be focused on artificial intelligence development with a strong focus on car technologies.
According to the details set out for the press, the research project is to span a five-year timeframe, during which the venture will be coordinated by former DARPA Program Director, Gill Pratt. Also, Professor Daniela Rus of MIT, as well as Professor Fei-Fei of Stanford will be involved in the five year project.
Toyota is venturing on exciting new grounds. Currently, a number of semi-autonomous technologies have been developed that aid drivers with a variety of functions performed by their vehicles.
Yet, according to Gill Pratt, none has the complexity for which automaker Toyota is aiming. A truly smart and autonomous technology powered by AI should be able to work in synergy with the human driver, while reacting to all stimulus at hand and performing complex judgements required by the situation at hand.
As Professor Rus and Professor Fei-Fei understand it, the task they are facing is to create car tech based on artificial intelligence, yet a human centric intelligence. Certainly, an autonomous car is not the same as an artificial intelligence-powered one.
Nonetheless, as Toyota sees it, AI-led tech is essential for future developments with autonomous, self-driving cars and their success on the market. Meanwhile, while autonomous cars are still in developmental phase as prototypes, or even just concepts, AI-powered car tech could lend a valuable helping hand to human drivers.
Take the example of the elderly who may face more difficult situations on the road. Being distraught, not reacting sufficiently rapidly or knowing the precise directions could end up in unnecessary accidents.
A car driven by a human could benefit largely from artificial intelligence. From the technology interacting with the driver to the point where it can read their mood or compute risk and assess management solutions in a manner of seconds in order to save lives or interact with pedestrians, these are just a few examples.
There is a long way to results. However, the first building stone has been set up by Toyota, the MIT and Stanford University. Within five years time, we might see a new generation of AI-aided vehicles and a new stepping stone laid out for fully autonomous vehicles.
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