Toyota Motor Corporation announced that it has started a new company, Toyota Research Institute, Inc. (TRI), for the purpose of researching and developing artificial intelligence. Headquartered in Silicon Valley with another location near MIT, TRI will open in January 2016. TRI will be seeded with an initial $1 billion.
As we all know, by whatever name you use (telematics, connected car, autonomous driving, etc.) our cars are becoming more and more independent of us, the drivers. Not surprisingly, Toyota appears to be aggressively trying to lead at least part of this revolution. Interestingly, Toyota sees this not just about cars, but about the fact that “artificial intelligence has significant potential to support future industrial technologies and the creation of an entirely new industry.” Good old fashioned mechanical engineering is slowly giving way to computer science as companies like Google and Apple look to disrupt the auto industry with their own innovation.
The new CEO, Gill Pratt, is a former Pentagon Robotic expert for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). So, maybe our headline about Skynet is a little closer to reality than we may want to believe – at least when it comes to our cars!