Toyota is investing $1 billion in a research company it’s setting up in Silicon Valley to develop artificial intelligence and robotics, underlining the Japanese automaker’s determination to lead in futuristic cars that drive themselves and to apply the technology to other areas of daily life.
Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said Friday that the company will start operating in January with 200 employees at a facility near Stanford University. A second facility will be established near Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
The investment, which will be spread over five years, comes on top of $50 million Toyota announced earlier for artificial intelligence research at Stanford and MIT.
Toyota said its interest extended beyond autonomous driving, which is starting to be offered by some automakers and being promised by almost all of them.
Toyota has already shown an R2-D2-like robot (called the Toyota Partner Robot Family) designed to help the elderly, the sick and people in wheelchairs by picking up and carrying objects. The automaker has also shown human-shaped entertainment robots that can converse and play musical instruments. As the world’s top auto manufacturer, Toyota already uses sophisticated robotic arms and computers in auto production, including doing paint jobs and screwing in parts.
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