— ToyotaGB (@ToyotaGB) April 8, 2016
Last year, Toyota shocked the world by declaring it would invest $1 billion in a new artificial intelligence and robotics R&D company called the Toyota Research Institute (TRI).
Once the dust settled, and we realized Toyota was not actually Skynet all along, we knew that A.I. could only mean one thing to an automaker — self-driving cars.
Though Toyota has been researching autonomous driving technology for more than a decade, it has never come forward with a field-tested prototype. Instead, the automaker has stuck with semi-autonomous features like Toyota Safety Sense.
TRI would consist of two facilities: one on the west coast, working with Stanford University, and one on the east coast, working with MIT.
Last week, TRI CEO Dr. Gill Pratt announced at the GPU Technology Conference that he would be opening up a third location which would collaborate with the University of Michigan to produce and test a fully self-driving car.
The opportunity to develop a self-driving car right in the heart of the fierce winters of Michigan is perfect for Toyota's purposes.
"Although the industry, including Toyota, has made great strides in the last five years, much of what we have collectively accomplished has been easy, because most driving is easy," said Pratt. "Where we need autonomy to help most is when the driving is difficult. It's this hard part that TRI intends to address."
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