Toyota have a history in investment in investing in research, investing $50 million already this year. Now Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp announced that the company would be setting aside $1 billion in order to establish a new R&D department, known as the Toyota Research Department.
Based close to Stanford University in Silicon Valley and possessing a second site close to MIT, the Toyota Research Department aims to work alongside researchers from the university to further development in the fields of AI and robotics. The immediate thought that a motor company’s stake in such an investment would be furthering the development of self-driving cars, as many car companies strive to perfect in recent times. But Toyota is thinking on a wider scale, with the aim being, in the words of the new department’s leader Gill Pratt, to “bridge the gap between fundamental research and product development, particularly of life saving and life improving technologies.”
This leads to 3 goals, safety, accessibility and robotics. Safety, as expected, involves increasing the safety of those on the road, preventing accidents as much as possible. Accessibility is about bringing the freedom of travel that a car brings to those that are unable to drive for any reason. Lastly, robotics, the most general of the three aims to increase the quality of life for everyone, especially the old and infirm.
Toyota do not expect any instant returns on this investment, however with the investment set aside for at least the next 5 years, we could see new technologies from Toyota in more than just our cars. And even if all this sounds a lot like the work already underway by companies like Google, Toyota remain undeterred, despite others having a head start, the race for such technologies is just getting started; A fitting mindset for a company with long history in motorsport.