At a press conference today in Silicon Valley Toyota announced plans to invest $50 million over five years to set up joint artificial intelligence research centers at Stanford and MIT. The centers will focus on developing autonomous technology and next-gen systems that will make driving safer, easier, and more efficient. The initiative will take a human-focused approach to develop vehicles that think and learn from drivers – and systems that know when to step in to prevent accidents and save lives. Over 1 million people die every year in car accidents, and Toyota’s goal is to go beyond protecting people in a crash to preventing crashes entirely.
Toyota hired DARPA’s Gill Pratt to lead the initiative, which will seek to produce cutting-edge collaborative research into artificial intelligence and robotic technology. Developing artificial intelligence for automobiles is a challenging project – it goes beyond smart hardware that can follow GPS coordinates, park your car, and sense impending crashes. Toyota’s artificial intelligence research project will seek to develop next-gen systems that analyze human behavior and make calculated decisions to improve the driving experience and save lives.
Imagine a car that can sense when you’re stressed and puts on your favorite album, or a car connected to your refrigerator that lets you know when you’re out of milk. These are two possibilities proposed by MIT electrical engineering professor Daniela Rus. Stanford associate professor of computer science Fei-Fei Li says that human behavior analysis can be leveraged to develop systems that deal with distracted drivers, and drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel. The schools will also work towards developing systems that can handle difficult driving conditions like inclement weather and traffic congestion, and models that will anticipate what other cars on the road will do in certain situations.
Many major automaker are currently working on driverless car technology – so far Audi, Mercedes-Benz Volvo and Tesla have thrown their hats into the ring, and tech giants Google, Apple, and Uber are working on self-driving car projects as well. Whereas many of these projects are focused on completely eliminating the driver from the equation, Toyota’s approach will still put the driver in control – their immediate focus is on making driving safer and more fun, rather than completely eliminating the experience of driving. Toyota expects to announce new products that incorporate autonomous technology within the next 2-3 years.