Posts Tagged ‘autonomous cars’

Toyota, AI, Robots And A New Challenge

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

You might recall that back in November, Toyota announced that they would assemble a lab near MIT in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States to put some serious research into artificial intelligence.

They have put a lot into the Toyota Research Institute – a five-year, $1 billion investment entirely devoted to the development of autonomous cars and the artificial intelligence that may run them (and, as a side note, the development of personal assistant robots is also on the list.)

Toyota says that they have aspirations to be a leader in the field. Of course they do. They’re Toyota.

But that’s not really news. Toyota’s been doing that for years. What is news is that Toyota has assembled a team of about 12 members who have experience in computer science, artificial intelligence, cars, and robotics and design for the project.

Toyota decided to strategically open the lab close to MIT – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They say it is the center of innovation – they call MIT, “a hotbed of where the kind of work artificial intelligence, particularly applied to transportation is going on,” according to Gill Pratt, director of Toyota Research Institute, Cambridge.

Pratt is a trained roboticist who used to be a program manager for DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This is an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the United States military. Perhaps uncoincidentally, MIT has been behind a number of those non-civilian technologies.

We all know that Toyota is not the first car company investing in robots.

You know what they are the first ones to do, though? They’re the first ones to invest heavily in home-assistant robots. Robots in factories are nothing new. Honda has robots in factories.
Toyota is doing this because this is what they anticipate that customers will need over the long term.

Toyota recognizes it that the demographics are quickly moving to a large percentage of the population being elderly. They anticipate that by creating these assistant robots, they can help them live a dignified life.

Whether this is true, or whether this is more to do with the Japanese mindset of stifling immigration (which would be the typical first world solution to solving a home-help worker shortage) has yet to be seen.

While other companies are focusing on the mobility of goods, Toyota is focusing on mobility for people and goods – both indoors and out.

Toyota is doing three things. One, they are letting the whole world know that robots are the future. Two, they are completely redefining their mission by focusing on artificial intelligence. If you look in the history of Toyota, they used to make looms before they made cars. So, it’s not a huge leap for Toyota to start developing AI. Third, they recognize that safety remains a challenge.


Fully Autonomous Nissan Leaf May Be Closer Than You Think

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Autonomous Nissan Leaf

According to any futuristic sci-fi movie from the 1970s, by 2013 we should have been driving flying cars. Unfortunately, while there have been some steps in that direction, no automaker is ready to shake things up quite that much just yet. Autonomous cars, on the other hand, now that’s a goal to shoot for. And if Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has anything to say about it, we may be driving hands-free sooner than you think.

It was just one year ago that Nissan impressed us with their first-ever self-parking car at Japan’s annual Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies show (CEATEC for short). Now, one year later, they’re demonstrating their first ever Autonomous Driving Nissan Leaf prototype. They’ve allowed everyone from journalists to competing CEO Akio Toyoda to go for a ride, and reactions have been glowing all around.

After her test drive, Li Hui, a head producer for Pheonix TV out of Hong Kong, confidently stated that the technology would be wholeheartedly adapted by Chinese drivers if it were available right now.  She felt that women in particular would benefit from autonomous driving, as it would free up the many hours spent commuting each week for other things. Imagine being able to eat breakfast, put on makeup, and otherwise prepare for the day on your way to work. And who wouldn’t want to get some extra sleep in on the way to work as well? Not only would you make better use of your time, you’d be saving money on fuel because it’s an EV, and you’d be safer because the car drives itself perfectly.

Obviously, a fully autonomous vehicle is one of those things you have to see to believe. So, check out the video below and see for yourself:

For our more technologically inclined to readers, the Nissan Leaf drives itself through the use of five lasers and five cameras mounted around the car’s exterior.  The cameras and lasers work together to direct the car safely around a track.  In the video above, you’ll see the Autonomous Driving Nissan Leaf stop at stop signs, drive around a stalled car, yield for other human-operated vehicles, and smoothly glide through u-turns.

In another video, CEO target=”_blank”>Carlos Ghosn gets behind the wheel for himself and discusses what this debut means for Nissan. He praises his team of engineers for the enormous advancements they’ve made in just one year, but at the same time he acknowledges that the success of this prototype only serves to put more pressure on Nissan. He claims that they will have a commercially available autonomous vehicle by 2020, “at the latest.” That sounds like a recipe for more long nights in the lab for the geeks. Good job the car will be able to drive them home at the end of all of that.

Nissan has already worked out an agreement with the Japanese government to target=”_blank”>begin testing semi-autonomous vehicles on real roads with real people. According to their tests, the AD Leaf shows better reaction times than any human driver.

Toru Futami, Nissan’s head of IT and ITS Development, says that their end-goal is to have a system that predicts and reacts to every conceivable circumstance, from a child running into the road to another car running a red light. Perfect safety and perfect convenience are the joint objectives, and if the autonomous Nissan Leaf at CEATEC is any indication, both goals will be met sooner rather than later.