Toyota Injects $1 Billion Into Silicon Valley AI Firm To Advance Autonomous Vehicles

Toyota today announced that it will establish a new company that will serve as an research and development enterprise with an initial focus on artificial intelligence and robotics. Called Toyota Research Institute Inc. (TRI), the newly formed operation will be headquartered in Silicon Valley near Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

There will also be a second facility near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Between the two, Toyota has committed to an initial investment of $1 billion over the next five years, which will go towards creating the new facilities, staffing them, and conducting operations. Another $50 million will come from MIT and Stanford to establish joint AI research centers at both universities, Toyota said.

Toyota Building

Toyota's initial goals are focused on autonomous driving, and specifically towards making self-driving cars safer by decreasing the likelihood that a car will be involved in an accident. However, the auto maker insists that this effort is about more than just autonomous vehicles, it also wants to "help resolve society's future challenges" by leveraging AI and big data.

"As technology continues to progress, so does our ability to improve products. At Toyota, we do not pursue innovation simply because we can; we pursue it because we should," said Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota. "It is our responsibility to make life better for our customers, and society as a whole. I want to work with Gill, not just because he is a great researcher, but because I believe that his goals and motivations are the same as ours."

The "Gill" he references is Gill Pratt, Toyota's Executive Technical Adviser and the CEO of the new enterprise, which will begin operations in January of next year. Between the two facilities, Toyota plans to staff around 200 people.