Toyota’s newly-formed research institute is to begin developing the next generation of automotive technology as part of a $1 billion research effort.
The Toyota Research Institute features teams working both at both the Stanford University in California and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The TRI is headed by Dr. Gill Pratt, who told journalists at the Consumer Electronics Show that
“we can’t just look to solve driving when it’s easy, we need to solve driving when it’s hard.”
Four mandates will guide the TRI’s research efforts. The first is to enhance the safety of cars, resulting in a car which is ‘incapable’ of causing an accident.
The second mandate calls for the TRI to “increase access to cars to those who cannot otherwise drive,” specifically for older people. The third mandate calls for the sharing of expertise, with the objective of creating products for indoor mobility as well as outdoor.
Finally, the last mandate states that the TRI will use learning from artificial technology studies to support future robotics. Although around 30 research projects have already been approved, two were highlighted at CES. The first, lead by the Stanford team, has been dubbed “Uncertainty on Uncertainty,” and is designed to teach autonomous cars to safely respond to unanticipated events.
The second research project, which will be undertaken at MIT, is called “The Car Can Explain.” The project will provide connected and autonomous cars with the ability to explain their actions. If an autonomous car is deemed to be responsible for an accident, for example, the car will be able to clearly explain its thought processes.
As well as its own research projects, Pratt confirmed that TRI would “enthusiastically pursue” collaborations with other companies, including other vehicle manufacturers, with the goal of jointly developing autonomous vehicle technology.
The formation of the TRI was announced in November of last year, with the aim of “bridging the gap between fundamental research and product development.”
“While the most important technology for enhancing human mobility has traditionally been hardware, today software and data are increasingly essential,”
“The scale of Toyota’s commitment reflects our belief in the importance of developing safe and reliable automated mobility systems. Simply put, we believe we can significantly improve the quality of life for all people, regardless of age, with mobility products in all aspects of life.”