Toyota invests $1 billion in new U.S. research operation

Toyota Motor Corporation has created the Toyota Research Institute, Inc, (TRI) an R&D facility to be headquartered in Silicon Valley near the campus of Stanford University. Set to open in January, TRI is being charged with performing advanced research and product planning, focusing its initial efforts in the areas of artificial intelligence and robotics as it pertains to vehicles. With a projected staff of 200, it also will serve as a conduit between fundamental research and ultimate product development. The automaker plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years to support TRI, which will have a sister facility located near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. Toyota has already committed $50 million to those schools to establish joint artificial intelligence research centers at each.

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TRI is being headed by Dr. Gill Pratt who joined the firm in September as Toyota's Executive Technical Advisor after serving as program manager for the U.S. government's DARPA Robotics Challenge from 2010-2015. It will utilize artificial intelligence and big data to accelerate the pace of fundamental research in ways that "contribute to a sustainable future where everyone can experience a safer, freer, and unconstrained life." To that end, Pratt notes TRI's three primary goals will be to find new ways to decrease the likelihood of vehicle accidents; make driving accessible to everyone, regardless of ability; and apply Toyota technology used for outdoor mobility to select indoor environments, particularly for the support of senior citizens who are becoming a large percentage of the American population. TRI's brief also encompasses a broader mission to improve production efficiency and accelerate scientific discovery with respect to materials.

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