Toyota wants autonomous tech to make people largely unnecessary for freeway journeys by 2020, and a significant new investment from the Japanese automaker shows how seriously it takes that driverless future. The company will spend $1 billion over the next five years to establish a US-based division called Toyota Research Institute Inc. With work beginning in January 2016, the engineers will focus on advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence for vehicles.

To achieve these futuristic goals, TRI will set up shop in two hotbeds of high-tech development. The company will establish its headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, in Silicon Valley, and a second lab will operate from the opposite coast near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Current executive technical advisor Gill Pratt (pictured above with Akio Toyoda) will be CEO of the new division, and he'll hire around 200 researchers to bring AI and robotics to the road. Toyota's rather utopian dream for this huge investment is "a sustainable future where everyone can experience a safer, freer, and unconstrained life," according to the project announcement.

Pratt leads Toyota's push to become an industry force in these disciplines. His goal with this latest undertaking is to make driving safer and more accessible, and he also wants to apply the tech outside of cars, like to assist senior citizens. The automaker hired him earlier this year to steer its $50-million partnership into AI development with Stanford and MIT. Before joining the company, Pratt led robotics projects at the government research agency DARPA.
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Toyota Will Establish New Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Company

$1 Billion Investment Over the Next Five Years
Headquarters Located in Silicon Valley

November 05, 2015
Watch the press conference webcast here

Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 6, 2015 -- At a press conference today, Toyota Motor Corporation announced it will establish a new company, Toyota Research Institute Inc. (TRI), as an R&D enterprise with an initial focus on artificial intelligence and robotics. The headquarters will be located in Silicon Valley near Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, U.S.A. A second facility will be located near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. The new company will begin operations in January 2016.

Toyota believes artificial intelligence has significant potential to support future industrial technologies and the creation of an entirely new industry. To underscore this belief, it is making an initial investment of $1 billion over the next five years, to establish and staff the two initial locations and conduct operations. The investment is in addition to the $50 million investment over the next five years with MIT and Stanford to establish joint fundamental artificial intelligence research centers at each university.

TRI will help bridge the gap between fundamental research and product development. Its primary mission is to accelerate R&D in a range of fields to help resolve society's future challenges by using artificial intelligence and big data. Thereby, contributing to a sustainable future where everyone can experience a safer, freer, and unconstrained life.

Directed by Dr. Gill Pratt, Toyota's Executive Technical Advisor and the Chief Executive Officer of the new enterprise, TRI will hire leading researchers and engineers to support its wide range of activities.

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."
TRI Outline
Name Toyota Research Institute, Inc.
Headquarters Palo Alto, California, United States of America
Date of Establishment January 2016
Business Advanced research and product planning with an initial focus on artificial intelligence and robotics
Initial Investment $1 billion / 5 yr.
Number of employees Approximately 200 (plan)

Reference: Dr. Gill Pratt's career

Born in the U.S.A. in 1961.
Obtained a Doctorate degree from the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department at MIT, and taught at MIT and Olin College as Associate Professor and Professor, respectively.
Established three startups between 1983 and 2005, and helped found Olin College.
As a DARPA Program Manager, led projects in Neuromorphic Systems and Robotics, including the DARPA Robotics Challenge, from 2010 to 2015.
Significantly influenced robotics research by leading the DARPA Robotics Challenge, where humans and robots collaborated for disaster response.

Reference: Awards Dr. Gill Pratt has won
DARPA Program Manager of the Year 2014
DARPA Results That Matter 2013
NSF (National Science Foundation) Career 1998

Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 6, 2015 -- At a press conference today, Toyota Motor Corporation announced it will establish a new company, Toyota Research Institute Inc. (TRI), as an R&D enterprise with an initial focus on artificial intelligence and robotics. The headquarters will be located in Silicon Valley near Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, U.S.A. A second facility will be located near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. The new company will begin operations in January 2016.


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