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Toyota to Invest $1b in AI, Robotics

Toyota to Invest $1b in AI, RoboticsToyota to Invest $1b in AI, Robotics

Toyota is investing $1 billion in a research company it is setting up in Silicon Valley to develop artificial intelligence and robotics, underlining the Japanese automaker’s determination to lead in futuristic cars that drive themselves and apply the technology to other areas of daily life.

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said on Friday the company will start operating from January 2016, with 200 employees at a Silicon Valley facility near Stanford University.

A second facility will be established near Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, AP writes.

The investment, which will be spread over five years, comes on top of $50 million Toyota announced earlier for artificial intelligence research at Stanford and MIT.

Toyota said its interest extended beyond autonomous driving, which is starting to be offered by some automakers and being promised by almost all of them. The technology was pointing to a new industry for everyday use, delivering a safer lifestyle overall, it said.

Toyota has already shown an R2-D2-like robot designed to help the elderly, the sick and people in wheelchairs by picking up and carrying objects. The automaker has also shown human-shaped entertainment robots that can carry on conversations and play musical instruments.

As the world’s top auto manufacturer, Toyota already uses sophisticated robotic arms and computers in auto production, including doing paint jobs and assembling parts.

The new company will be hiring researchers and engineers, according to Toyota.

Wooing talent is crucial because not only are automakers such as General Motors, Tesla and Nissan competing on autonomous driving but outsiders are as well, including Google, Apple and Uber.

On Thursday, the company kept its profit forecast for the fiscal year through March 2016 unchanged at 2.25 trillion yen ($18.5 billion), as profit rose on cost cuts and the benefits of a weak yen. The maker of the Prius hybrid and Camry sedan is on track to sell about 10 million vehicles around the world this year.

Toyoda, ranked by Forbes in this year’s “powerful people” list as the most powerful Japanese, said he looks forward to working with Pratt because they share a vision.

“The goal is to do away with the tragedy of car accidents,” he told reporters.

 

Financialtribune.com