Toyota on Friday announced a collaborative effort with MIT and Stanford that will see the Japanese automaker invest $50 million over the next five years to establish autonomous vehicle research centers at each university.
The immediate goal is to make driving safer and reduce traffic casualties and in time, Toyota said, it hopes to improve the quality of life through enhanced mobility and robotics.
Former DARPA program manager Dr. Gill Pratt has joined Toyota to oversee and accelerate activities at both research facilities. Toyota said Professor Daniela Rus will lead the MIT research center while Professor Fei-Fei Li will do the same at Stanford.
Pratt told Fortune that Toyota is more interested in equipping human drivers with advanced technology to help deal with road hazards and dangerous weather conditions versus a company like Google that aims to completely remove humans from the equation.
Existing artificial intelligence, Pratt added, still has a long way to go before it reaches a level in which self-driving cars can roam the streets freely and safely. That’s not to say fully autonomous vehicles will never exist; there’s just a lot on the technical side that still has to be ironed out.
Kiyotaka Ise, a senior managing officer at Toyota, believes the automaker’s research could eventually assist Japan’s growing elderly population with their waning ability to drive safely.