Standford, California – Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp (NYSE: TM), announced on Friday that his company would start to research on the development of artificial intelligence and robotics since they are determined to be pioneers on self-driving futuristic cars and also other day-to-day life areas. Operations will begin in January 2016, with 200 employees at a facility in Silicon Valley, near Stanford University, plus an East Coast office near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

The new organization, the Toyota Research Institute Inc., will be led by Gill Pratt and is focused on hiring highly qualified engineers and researchers. Pratt used to be a program manager at the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and has now joined the automobile manufacturer as a technical adviser. He remarks that the company’s main goal is to make life at home easier for the elderly through robotics so they can drive safely, regardless of ability. Toyoda, the most powerful Japanese according to this year’s Forbes ranking, said that he looked forward to continuing working with Pratt, as they both shared a very similar vision.

Toyota is investing $1 billion in a research company it’s setting up in Silicon Valley to develop artificial intelligence and robotics. Credit:

Pratt said that he has been dreaming of developing artificial intelligence since he was a child and explained that he chose Toyota because the company takes social good into account. However, he seems clear that it will take a long time before they can create a car as smart as a human being and that no one had yet achieved significant advances.

An R2-D2-like robot has already been designed and shown by Toyota. By picking up and carrying objects, this model focuses on aiding the elderly, the sick and people confined to wheelchairs. They have also demonstrated entertainment robots that look just like humans and are able to talk and play musical instruments. The company already produces autos that include sophisticated robotic arms.

However, the Japanese giant is not alone on the race of developing artificial intelligence. Competitors such as General Motors, Tesla, Nissan, Google, Apple, and Uber are also working on building cars that are automatically driven.

Martial Hebert, director of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, said, “There is still a need for considerable research to be done before this technology becomes commonplace in the market,” and adds that he expects other companies to join and expand the market.

On the other hand, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book Karl Bauer comments that “The rapid adoption of advanced technology for the purposes of autonomous driving and connected car services means car companies have to act more like tech startups than traditional automakers.”

Source: Los Angeles Times