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Toyota investing in AI to enable its cars to predict events and take evasive action

Toyota Prius Prime
Fast reactions can help you drive defensively and avoid collisions. Many of the autonomous features in cars have reactive ability, such as adaptive cruise-control systems that adjust speed by sensing the distance from and the speed of the vehicle ahead. Toyota Motors wants its cars to go beyond reaction to prediction and evasion. To accomplish those more complex functions, Toyota is going to rely heavily on artificial intelligence, according to Reuters.

Like Ford and Honda, Toyota is investing heavily in AI and robotics to improve safety and performance in the fast-approaching world of self-driving cars. During  the next five years, Toyota is going to invest $1 billion on artificial intelligence in a new research and development unit called the Toyota Research Institute (TRI). The aim is to improve car safety by enabling vehicles to anticipate and avoid potential accident situations.

“Some of the things that are in car safety, which is a near-term priority, I’m very confident that we will have some advances come out during the next five years,” said Gill Pratt, the new TRI CEO.

Pratt said that looking one car ahead and one adjacent lane isn’t enough. “The intelligence of the car would figure out a plan for evasive action … Essentially (it would) be like a guardian angel, pushing on the accelerators, pushing on the steering wheel, pushing on the brake in parallel with you.”

In response to questions about other markets than cars for its AI and robotics research, Pratt said the Toyota Research Institute will also be exploring applications and devices that can assist the growing elderly population in Japan and other countries. Home robotics is an additional possibility. When asked specifically about Toyota building robots for home use in the future he replied, “That’s part of what we’re exploring at TRI.”

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