Toyota says it will spend $1 billion to build a new research institute dedicated to two things that will improve its cars: artificial intelligence, and robotics.
The new establishment, called Toyota Research Institute, will begin work in January, according to Bloomberg. This new branch will work on safety systems and autonomous cars, while also making it an easy transition for older drivers that don’t want to relinquish control of their car keys.
Much of the $1 billion investment will go towards building locations for the new Research Institute near Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Gill Pratt, the 54-year-old CEO of Toyota’s Research Institute, says working towards autonomous cars will be less of a sprint and more of a marathon.
“It’s possible at the beginning of a car race that you may not be in the best position,” he said. “It may be that other drivers are saying a whole lot about what their position is, and everyone may expect that a particular car will win. But of course, if the race is very long, who knows who will win? We’re going to work extremely hard.”
Toyota says its goal is to introduce cars with semi-autonomous features — like lane switching and steering on and off public highways — by 2020, just in time for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
By that time, both Google and Tesla aim to have fully autonomous vehicles on the road. But Gill, who used to run the Robotics Challenge at DARPA before joining Toyota, says his company will not rush to the finish line.
“The problem of adding safety and accessibility to cars is extremely difficult,” Gill said. “And the truth is, we are only at the beginning of this race.”
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