(Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. will spend $1 billion to form a research institute focused on artificial intelligence and robotics, as the world’s largest automaker looks to elevate its role in reducing traffic fatalities.
Toyota Research Institute Inc. will start operating in January, and the Japanese carmaker’s five-year initial investment will set up locations near Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to a company statement. Gill Pratt, the former top robotics engineer for the U.S. military whom Toyota hired in September, will be chief executive officer.
The researcher’s aims will be to reduce the likelihood of car accidents that cause 1.25 million traffic deaths per year worldwide, and to make driving more accessible in aging countries like Japan and the U.S., Toyota’s biggest markets. The investment could accelerate Toyota’s efforts in making the act of driving more autonomous, a process that Japanese carmakers have been pursuing under more conservative time frames than companies including Google Inc. and Tesla Motors Inc.
“Our target is really to make the fatalities from car accidents zero,” President Akio Toyoda told reporters last week on the sidelines of the Tokyo Motor Show. “To this end, the cars would have to really identify the movement of the pedestrians and gather information about the neighboring cars.”
Toyota last month offered reporters test drives in a “highway teammate” concept car, a modified Lexus GS sedan that can enter public expressways, switch lanes and steer to the off ramp, all while picking spots to speed up or slow down based on the surrounding traffic. The company aims to introduce cars with automated highway driving by around 2020.
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