Automotive industry is changing and changing fast. The human driven cars will soon be a thing of the past as AI powered autonomous cars go mainstream. The change is being accelerated by players like Google, Tesla, General Motors, Mercedes and now Toyota that are working tirelessly to ensure that a complete shift happens sooner rather than later – actually as soon as 2017. To ensure that their vehicles get a mind of their own, Toyota plans to invest $1 billion on artificial intelligence and robotics research over the next five years.
To help spearhead the research, Toyota is now building another company called Toyota Research Institute Inc. that will have offices in Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Mass. The established institute will put much effort on automated cars and place their focus on features that can help drivers avoid crashes, like automated braking in the futures.
“There are some people who are looking at autonomous driving as the end goal,” said John Hanson, a Toyota spokesperson. “It is definitely off in the future. What we want to do is we want to start saving lives immediately.”
The company has a mission to venture on practical approaches in car making hence reduce the rate at which automated features are tested in the labs; instead, most of their tests will take place on the road. “With this model, we hope it will bridge the gap between pure research and product development,” said Hanson.
Driverless cars are now the talk in every tech news outlet and the fact that Toyota plans to invest $1 billion on artificial intelligence, gives other companies a challenge. Recently, Google signed an agreement with the mayor of New York City to replace NYC Taxis with Driverless Cabs. The mayor provided that Google cars will reduce the number of cabs operating on the city’s streets. The driverless taxi cabs will be customized to meet the needs of busy New Yorkers, and each vehicle will come equipped with ATMs, food vending machines, and better entertainment options.
Toyota has hired Gill Prat, the guy who led the DARPA Robotics Challenge. Gill Prat has been given the mandate to lead the newly established research unit. The company will start in 2016 by hiring approximately 200 people across both locations. It hopes to attract top engineers from Stanford and MIT. The institute has plans to be part of a collaborative, open AI effort. It will work with startups, other manufactures, research institutes and universities.
“We’re trying to eliminate crashes all together, and that’s a lot to do but we think it’s doable,” said Hanson.
Currently, driverless cars are being driven on major cities in the US. This raised a concern after residents staged their grievances on the fact that the cars might not be safe. Later on, Google launched a website meant to report every accident caused by the cars. The website provides information on any accident without revealing the identity of the human drivers who are required by law to ride along in the cars.