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Toyota's A.I. research efforts could mean cars that anticipate traffic, pedestrian moves

Sharon Gaudin | Nov. 12, 2015
Toyota funds research focused on cars and human/robot interaction.

"Toyota provides additional resources and provides exciting focus in some of the interests," he said. "It begins with the financial resources but Toyota brings a whole lot more to the party than just financial support. They have a unique perspective on the future of the A.I. industry and robotics."

Increasingly, A.I. research is about more than algorithms and smart systems. It's also about big data, and Toyota has plenty of data on automobiles and how people interact with them.

"Data is an important resource for a whole lot of research and Toyota brings us a whole lot of data," explained Eglash. "We were all used to thinking of an organization's resources as their plant and capital resources, but increasingly we also think of data being a valuable resource. Cars are one of the most connected things we own. How can we use that intelligence? How do we understand how people want to interact with their cars? That's an important part of this."

Eglash also hopes their efforts will make artificial intelligence more contextual and human-centered.

"When your computer is providing you with information, whether it's a computer, a phone or a robot, you want it to be as aware of the situation you're in as possible," Eglash said. "You want the car to understand if your mind is elsewhere and you want a more passive experience. Maybe you're old and your eyesight isn't as good and you need more help. In the future, we'll want intelligent machines to interact with us the way we want them to interact with us."

So how long before cars recognize if a driver is tired and might need help staying focused on the road, or might even take over the driving?

It won't be long at all, according to the Stanford researcher.

The auto industry already has introduced cars that can park themselves, stay within the lane and brake when they sense an object in their path.

Hopefully in a few years, cars will make predictions about traffic and road conditions in an area minutes before the car even gets there. It's also hoped that cars will soon be smart enough to anticipate what bicyclists and pedestrians might do and take precautionary maneuvers.

"We have the potential to use technology to drastically reduce the number of accidents," Eglash said.

While the majority of Stanford's research will focus on using A.I. in automobiles, researchers also will work on human/robot interactions.

For that, Stanford will pull in professors from the humanities, psychology and social sciences to work with the program's engineers.

"It's not just about technology," Eglash said. "We don't know what will happen, but we believe that research works best when you have as diverse a group of disciplines as possible."


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