Agents of Autonomy and Safety

TRI’s all-star team of scientists and engineers aims to develop technology that could help to virtually eliminate vehicle accident fatalities

January 06, 2016

CES Announcement -- Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt introduced his leadership team of scientists and engineers at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

More than 30,000 lives are lost each year in automobile accidents. But the work of an all-star team of scientists and engineers, brought together by the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) to drive the development of artificial intelligence and robotics, could eventually bring that number down to zero.
 
“If you believe in trying to save lives by creating cars incapable of causing a crash, you start exploring ways to work together as an industry and get this technology to market as quickly as possible,” said Bob Carter, Toyota Motor Sales’ senior vice president of automotive operations, on Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
 
Toyota took a major step in that direction in November when it announced the formation of TRI (click here to learn more). That bold initiative took more tangible shape at CES, where TRI CEO Gill Pratt revealed his technical leadership team as well as an advisory board—comprised of corporate, scientific and public policy leaders from around the world—that will guide their efforts.
 
The initial technical team includes:
 
  • Eric Krotkov, Former DARPA Program Manager—Chief Operating Officer 
  • Larry Jackel, Former Bell Labs Department Head and DARPA Program Manager—Machine Learning 
  • James Kuffner, CME Professor and Former head of Google Robotics—Cloud Computing 
  • John Leonard, Samuel C. Collins Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering, MIT—Autonomous Driving 
  • Hiroshi Okajima, Project General Manager, R&D Management Division, Toyota Motor Corporation—Executive Liaison Officer 
  • Brian Storey, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Olin College of Engineering—Accelerating Scientific Discovery 
  • Russ Tedrake, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT—Simulation and Control 
Professors Tedrake, Leonard and Storey will work part time with TRI and continue in their university roles. 
 
The Advisory Board will be made up of a range of outside experts including: 
 
  • John Roos, former CEO of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati, and former US Ambassador to Japan. Currently, General Partner at Geodesic Capital, a late stage venture capital firm, and Senior Advisor at Centerview Partners, a preeminent mergers and acquisitions advisory firm—Chairman  
  • Rodney Brooks, former director of the MIT Computer Science and AI Lab, founder of iRobot and Founder, Chairman and CTO of Rethink Robotics—Deputy Chairman 
  • Richard Danzig, Former U.S. Navy Secretary 
  • Bran Ferren, former President of R&D at Walt Disney Imagineering and Chief Creative Officer of Applied Minds 
  • Fei-Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) 
  • Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
“While the most important technology for enhancing human mobility has traditionally been hardware, today software and data are increasingly essential,” said Pratt. “Our leadership team brings decades of experience in pushing the boundaries of human knowledge in computer science and robotics. But we are just getting started.”


Hydrogen Power -- At CES, Toyota also showcased a host of automated, connected and zero-emission technologies -- including this FCV Plus concept vehicle. Its hydrogen fuel cell not only propels the vehicle but can serve as a stable source of electric power for use at home or on the go. 

Strengthening the Driver-Vehicle Bond
 
In addition to reducing if not eliminating automobile accidents, TRI’s development of artificial intelligence and robotics also hopes to increase access to vehicles to those who otherwise cannot drive, including the handicapped and the elderly. More broadly, its mandate is to explore cutting-edge technologies that could result in Toyota vehicles that form a deeper and increasingly interdependent bond with their drivers.
 
Carter pointed to the rapid acceptance, if not dependence, on smartphones in daily life as an example of where this work might ultimately lead.
 
“As the car becomes more intelligent, it can perform higher levels of driver assist, when needed,” he said. “Like teammates, the intelligent car and driver are learning from each other. They watch, listen and remember. They adapt. They communicate. Over time, a foundation of trust is built. And as trust is built, more tasks can be shared or re-assigned. As we get to that point, where the car is incapable of getting into a crash, it will be possible to save more and more lives.”
 
Building a Connected Vehicle Framework
 
In a related move, Toyota also revealed at CES its next-generation connected vehicle framework, anchored by a Data Communication Module (DCM) that will be installed in a broader range of Japanese and U.S. market vehicles starting with the 2017 model year. The DCM will connect the vehicle via cellular telecommunications networks to Toyota’s Global Big Data Center. This new facility will analyze and process vehicle data under high-level information security and privacy controls.
 
By 2019, the DCM will standardize connectivity across all new Toyota vehicles globally. This will include an emergency notification system, which is activated when an airbag is deployed in a traffic accident.
 
Additionally, drivers will eventually be able to interact with their vehicles’ DCM directly via their smartphones. To help speed the development of safe and secure applications for this purpose, Toyota also announced it would collaborate with UIEvolution, including making an investment of $500 million in the middleware company.
 
By Dan Miller

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