Self-driving cars need to step up a gear, says Toyota chief - Mobile World Live

Self-driving cars need to step up a gear, says Toyota chief

05 JAN 2016

LIVE FROM CES 2016: Accomplishments to date with intelligent cars have been achieved in relatively easy driving conditions, pointed out the head of the new Toyota unit which wants to apply AI to autonomous driving.

Gill Pratt is the CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, set up at the back end of 2015 and bankrolled with $1 billion from its parent. Pratt was in Vegas to explain how all that money will be spent.

The answer is AI-based research into driverless cars. Toyota Research Institute is opening its own offices in Stanford Research Park and in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There’s also plans for investment in Japan. The unit has also funded 30 research projects over the past few months.

“Most of what we have collectively accomplished with intelligent cars to date has been relatively easy because most driving is relatively easy. Where we need to help is not where driving is easy. We need to solve driving when it’s hard. Toyota Research Unit intends to address the hard part,” said Pratt.

Toyota-backed research projects will look at how AI can help driverless cars cope with unpredictable events, rather than everyday driving. How to deal with debris falling from the back of a lorry in front of a car, rather than the normal cruise, for instance.

Or getting a car to explain why a problem happens. “Get cars to tell stories about themselves,” as Pratt put it.

In addition to AI, coverage of the Toyota Research Institute last year focused on its investment in robotics. Pratt himself is a robotics expert who formerly worked for Darpa, the US Defense Department’s research arm.

He gave a brief history lesson about Toyota to conclude his presentation, referencing a wise shift from building looms to cars by the firm in 1933. “It’s entirely possible that the robots could do for Toyota in the future what cars did in the past,” he said.

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Richard Handford

Richard is the editor of Mobile World Live’s money channel and a contributor to the daily news service. He is an experienced technology and business journalist who previously worked as a freelancer for many publications over the last decade including...

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