Toyota teams up with MIT and Stanford for AI research

Artificial Intelligence is big deal (even if Elon Musk thinks it will doom us all) and today Toyota announced that it is collaborating with MIT and Stanford to accelerate its own AI research. The goal of the collaboration is to advance artificial intelligence for vehicles with a strong focus on safety. The carmaker will invest $50 million over the next five years in joint research centers and has hired former DARPA Program Manager Dr. Gill Pratt to lead the initiative. Dr. Pratt noted that in addition to using the research to reduce vehicle-related fatalities, "we want people to live a more dignified and more safe life." That includes using autonomous systems to enable the elderly to continue to be mobile after they have traditionally lost their licenses. That doesn't necessarily mean that drivers will become pure passengers according to Pratt. One of the goals is to "eliminate highway collisions without eliminating the fun of driving."

University research leaders, professors Fe-Fe Li of Stanford and Daniela Rus of MIT both reiterated the collaboration's primary focus on safety. Rus noted the teams will be working on cars that will be driving partners that will "watch our backs." Both universities have a history of working with artificial intelligence. Stanford's SAIL (Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) was the first to win the DARPA challenge autonomous vehicle challenge in 2005. While MIT has over 20 professors and 100 plus graduate students working in the CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) department.

Pratt stressed that the $50 million allotted for the research centers isn't the only investment Toyota is making in the artificial intelligence area.

With a focus on the evolution of autonomous vehicles that in the relative short term will have the vehicles working in partnership with humans, we should expect to see something sooner rather than later from the collaboration. "We will not be waiting for a fully autonomous car to show you what we are working on," said Pratt.