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Toyota to Invest $50 Million in New Artificial Intelligence, Partner With Stanford and MIT

The company has also poached top DARPA official Gill Pratt to lead its efforts.


Toyota said Friday that it has hired a top DARPA official to lead a new five-year, $50 million effort to boost its artificial intelligence and autonomous driving efforts.

The company will establish labs in partnership with Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Heading the effort will be Gill Pratt, who until recently was at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Pratt headed up DARPA’s robotics challenge, among other projects.

Toyota Senior Managing Officer Kiyotaka Ise said he and Pratt share a common vision for what artificial intelligence can bring to the table.

“It should save lives, it should improve quality of life and it should continue to be fun,” Ise said, speaking at an event in Palo Alto, Calif.

Toyota officials downplayed concerns that they were trailing behind Google and other carmakers in autonomous driving and said the company already has some key technologies in place after spending 20 years working in the field.

Ise said that Google is focused on completely replacing the driver, while Toyota is looking at ways to take the load off the driver while maintaining the fun of the experience.

Describing what might be possible, MIT artificial intelligence lab director Daniela Rus suggested added intelligence could allow a car to tell when you are having a bad day and put on your favorite song, tell you when you need to pick up milk at the store or remind you when you haven’t called your parents. It could even take over the driving on a straight stretch of road so you can concentrate on the talking to them.

“These are just a few of the possibilities when you bring together cars and artificial intelligence,” Rus said. “We are ready to roll up our sleeves and get working.”

Rus will run the joint work with Toyota at MIT, while Fei-Fei Li, head of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, will head up joint work at her campus.

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