Toyota’s Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations, Bob Carter, used CES 2016 to officially announce the introduction of the Toyota Research Institute. Carter hopes for the Institute to transform the driver-vehicle interface into a driver-vehicle relationship. The CEO of the Institute is Dr. Gill Pratt. Dr Pratt is an expert in artificial intelligence and robotics and was previously the project manager of the DARPA Robotics challenge.
To quote Mr Carter, “What in the world does that have to do with selling Camrys?” Good question Bob. That is exactly what I was thinking. Well, it turns out that it has very little to do with selling Camrys but an awful lot to do with Toyota’s future.
Toyota has invested US$1b in the new Institute and is hoping to achieve three key goals.
Firstly, Toyota hopes to create a car that is incapable of crashing or causing a crash. Toyota expects to save 30000 lives in America alone by creating cars that can not crash.
Secondly, full driving autonomy would allow for people previously excluded from driving (people with special needs or older drivers, for example) now being able to either drive for the first time or drive again.
Finally, Dr Pratt used CES 2016 to explain that current automated driver systems focus on the “easy part of driving”. Much harder will be creating programming that accounts for “unexpected situations”. In countries such as Australia the interaction between automated vehicles and wildlife presents one of these unexpected situations.
Compounding this final issue is the demands consumers place on artificial intelligence systems. Consumers demand total reliability. Toyota is using data obtained from 1 trillion miles to test automated systems. It is very unlikely that consumers or governments would accept automated vehicles accounting for one death let alone 100. Despite these fears human-mated driving results in an annual road toll of 1.2 million people. Maybe the time has come for Dexter to drive.