Toyota Invests $50 Million in Vehicle Robotics
Toyota just revealed the 2016 Prius and, based on an announcement last week, we know a bit more about what a fully self-driving Toyota will look like. But it probably won’t appear or act anything like the new Prius, and also won’t be available for quite some time.
While many automakers are competing to provide partially autonomous cars and Google is going for the moon-shot of fully autonomous vehicles without a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals, Toyota hasn’t jumped into the self-driving car race. But that’s doesn’t mean the Japanese automaker is taking a backseat to Google and others, and in fact made a sizeable bet on automation last week.
Toyota announced that it’s investing approximately $50 million over the next five years to establish a joint research initiative with Stanford and MIT to study artificial intelligence (AI) and its “application to intelligent vehicles and robotics.” Toyota also announced the hiring of Dr. Gill Pratt, former program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and leader of its renowned Robotics Challenge events, to direct the AI research for the automaker.
Dr. Gill A. Pratt, who joins Toyota to direct the overall collaborative effort at the research centers, speaks at the press conference announcing Toyota’s collaboration with MIT and Stanford to accelerate artificial intelligence research in Palo Alto, Calif., Sept. 4, 2015. Photo by Toyota.
I sat down with Pratt following a press conference in Palo Alto, California where Toyota announced the new Stanford/MIT research initiative and he explained that while automakers, suppliers and Google have made significant strides in self-driving technology, major challenges like initiating the “hand-off” between human and machine driving will require much more time and research.
“In the last five years, we’ve come a long way,” Pratt said of self-driving technology. “But the important part is to understand that for fully autonomous driving – and even for intervention where you leave the person in control most of the time – getting to the last bit is the hardest part.”
This article originally appeared on Forbes.