The Toyota Motor Corporation announced on Friday an ambitious $50 million robotics and artificial intelligence research effort, in collaboration with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to develop “intelligent” rather than self-driving cars.
The distinction is a significant one, according to Gill Pratt, a prominent American roboticist, who has left his position at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Pentagon to direct the new effort.
Rather than compete with companies like Google and Tesla, which are designing cars that drive without human intervention, Toyota will focus its effort on using advances in A.I. technologies to make humans better drivers.
Dr. Pratt described the two approaches as “parallel” and “serial” autonomy. In layman terms, parallel means the machine watches what you do, while serial means it replaces you.
Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, envisions cars of the future that will act as “guardian angels,” watching the driving behavior of humans and intervening to correct mistakes or avoid collisions when needed.
Dr. Pratt said Toyota’s goal was to keep the “human in the loop” in the car of the future and to ensure that driving remained fun. “A worry we have is that the autonomy not take away the fun in driving,” he said. “If the autonomy can avoid a wreck, it can also make it more fun to drive.”