In January 2021, Japan’s Toyota Research Institute (TRI) announced its decision to extend Artificial Intelligence (AI) research collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Standford University, and the University of Michigan and select 13 additional academic institutions in the United States to participate in its next five-year phase of the program. The universities that will be part of the second phase include MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, UPenn, Princeton, Stanford, UC-Berkeley, and UCLA. These universities will receive funding of more than $75 million from TRI to expand the body of research into AI. This investment will be one of the largest collaborative research programs by an automotive company in the world.
In the past five years, the first phase of the program sponsored 98 projects involving about 100 faculty members and over 200 students across the United States. These projects have created and resulted in 16 patents and nearly 650 papers with 23 other projects still in progress. The research focuses of these projects have included developing soft robots to provide companionship for the elderly, analyzing bicycle and car interaction data to design self-driving algorithms, research and developing reliable control systems for lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control, and enabling computers to create fully representational 3D visuals for autonomous scenarios. The collaborations with TRI have led to several awards for published papers at leading conferences such as the 2018 Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR)’s Best Paper, the 2019 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)’s Best Paper, and the 2020 ICRA’s Best Paper Award.
According to TRI, they will lead 35 joint research projects in the areas of autonomous driving, robotics, and machine-assisted cognition (MAC) with US universities. Each project will feature a TRI researcher as a co-investigator, who will work closely with the university partner. This approach directly engages TRI researchers with their academic partners and further enhances the mutual understanding and engagement in scientific research between the United States and Japan.
The partnership builds on Toyota’s strong and active presence in the Ann Arbor, Palo Alto, and Cambridge communities. Toyota has employed about 200 employees in Cambridge and established a TRI facility in Ann Arbor in 2016 as part of a $1 billion investment in research in artificial intelligence and robotics. The company is also a founding partner of Mcity, the University of Michigan’s facility for developing connected and automated vehicle technology. The number of jobs created by TRI’s investment is a part of the 860,000 jobs which are directly created by Japanese firms in the United States and accounting for 13% of all US employment at foreign MNEs.