A great way to understand the future priorities for a company is to see where they invest resources. When you look at where Toyota, the Japanese industry giant, has recently invested, it’s clear the company is preparing to remain relevant and competitive in the 4th industrial revolution as a result of its investments and innovation in artificial intelligence, big data and robots.
Toyota AI Ventures Invests in AI Start-ups
With initial funding of $100 million, Toyota AI Ventures invests in tech start-ups and entrepreneurs around the world that are committed to autonomous mobility, data and robotics. Toyota’s investments help accelerate getting critical new technologies to market. One of the organisation’s investments is in May Mobility, a company that is developing self-driving shuttles for college campuses and other areas such as central business districts where low-speed applications are warranted. This is just one of the services that could blaze a trail to fully autonomous vehicles of the future.
Additionally, Silicon-based Toyota AI Ventures contributed funding as well as mentorship, incubation facilities and validation to Nauto, a company that’s creating a shared data platform to prevent accidents caused by distracted driving; SLAMcore, a visual tracking and mapping algorithm developer for smart tech; Intuition Robotics, an organisation that creates social companion technologies that are accessible and intuitive for seniors; Boxbot, a company that’s building self-driving delivery robots; and more. Like many disruptors, Toyota AI Ventures seeks out other innovators to tackle important challenges to propel the latest technologies.
AI Enhancements to Automobiles
Innovation has always been omnipresent at Toyota from its earliest days and it’s clear the company is continuing that innovative tradition. While Toyota was originally a company that produced wooden hand looms, the majority of people know the company for its automobile division. Their aim is to use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to make “cars an object of affection again” as soon as 2020 and is investing $1 billion in self-driving cars and AI between now and then to achieve it. Through Toyota’s investments in tech start-ups such as Perceptive Automata it hopes to create the technology to allow autonomous vehicles more human-like intuition when they are on the road more similar to how human drivers interact with pedestrians.
Toyota’s Concept-i fully electric autonomous vehicles demonstrate the company’s “Learn, Protect, Inspire” philosophy. The Concept-i artificial intelligence system, nicknamed “Yui, ” learns about its driver by listening to conversations, monitoring social media activity and schedules, and analysing facial expressions and driving habits to sense when a driver might be sleepy or stressed or what might enhance the driver’s comfort and then adjusts lighting, music or to the seats accordingly. The full vision is “intelligent talking cars” where cars equipped with AI can have conversations back and forth with passengers.
Toyota also announced the Concept-i Ride for users with wheelchairs or other disabilities and the Concept-i Walk, that’s designed for pedestrians to use on sidewalks similar to a Segway. Both additions to the Concept-i product line feature the same sensing abilities as the Concept-i vehicle.
In an effort to bring AI efficiency to ridesharing, Toyota has collaborated with Japan Taxi to test out its new AI-propelled taxi dispatch system. Not only does the company expect to enhance Tokyo’s taxi service, company leaders believe the driving data and real-time video will be instrumental in boosting efficiency and profits.
Toyota and Robotics
As a result of deep learning technologies and the millions of images uploaded to the internet via social media and other websites, machines are getting better at being able to “see” like a human. Toyota’s Human Support Robot (HSR) algorithms help it understand the world and can be life-changing for individuals with impaired mobility. The company also announced a T-HR3 humanoid robot, a third-generation version that uses an immersive “Master manoeuvring System” that mirrors a human user’s movements or can operate autonomously to support humans in a variety of settings.
Toyota is also innovating warehouse logistics with automation and artificial intelligence for lean approaches to material handling. With AI on board every vehicle, the future of logistics is when the right truck or piece of equipment—pallet drone, mid-lifter, ultra-lifer—is used for the right task every time. The company’s innovations aim to minimise energy use, prevent delays and eliminate waste thanks to teamwork between trucks, lifts, loaders and other equipment.
Toyota is a company that’s worth paying attention to as it progresses further into the 4th industrial revolution with investments in AI, big data and robotics.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.