Toyota makes $1bn bet on artificial intelligence and robots

6 Nov 2015907 Views

Toyota is investing $1bn in a new R&D lab in Silicon Valley that will develop artificial intelligence and robots.

Japanese car maker Toyota is investing $1bn in a new R&D lab in Silicon Valley that will develop artificial intelligence and robots as part of its drive to create cars and consumer products of the future.

The new lab will begin operations in January with 200 employees at a facility near Stanford University.

A second facility will be established near MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The investment follows a $50m investment in artificial intelligence research at both MIT and Stanford.

Toyota looks beyond self-driving cars

Toyota is aiming to look beyond autonomous driving experiences currently inspiring large car makers and tech giants like Google and Apple and focus instead on technologies that can impact on daily life in the future.

For example, the company has already created an R2-D2 type robot aimed at helping elderly people by carrying objects and keeping them company.

Support Silicon Republic

It has also created humanoid robots that can talk and play musical instruments.

The new organisation will be called Toyota Research Institute Inc and will be headed by robotics expert Gill Pratt, a former programme manager at DARPA.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda said that the objective of the investment was “to make life better for our customers and society as a whole”.

Last month Toyota pulled off one of the best marketing coups in recent years by using Back to the Future Day to show off its hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai, by recruiting the film’s two stars.

Classic robot toys image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years

editorial@siliconrepublic.com