Toyota, Stanford partner on AI-assisted driving

September 09, 2015 // By Rich Pell
Stanford University (Stanford, CA) has announced that it is partnering with Toyota in an artificial intelligence (AI) research effort that will focus on the development of AI technologies used in intelligent robotics and autonomous cars.

The intelligent car effort, and associated new Toyota-funded research center, will focus on AI-assisted driving - i.e., developing technologies designed to enhance and assist human driver performance - rather than just the creation of completely autonomous vehicles. According to Stanford, this addresses an immediate goal to try to reduce traffic casualties, which account for 3,400 deaths per day (per the World Health Organization), as well as presents a unique challenge for developing AI approaches and systems.

"AI-assisted driving is a perfect platform for advancing fundamental human-centric artificial intelligence research while also producing practical applications," says Fei-Fei Li, associate professor of computer science at Stanford, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab and the director of the new AI research center. "Autonomous driving provides a scenario where AI can deliver smart tools for assistance in decision making and planning to human drivers."

According to Li, attempts to mimic the human brain in a changing environment present a "benchmark" challenge for AI. Stanford will address the problem, says Li, by addressing four main challenges of making a computer think like a person: perception, learning, reasoning and interaction.

A key to the technology's success will be finding ways for the AI computer and human driver to safely and comfortably share control, working as partners to help make safe decisions. "These are fundamental issues in establishing human-centric AI," says Juan Carlos Niebles, the associate director of research at the new Stanford center.

In addition to the new Stanford research center, Toyota is also funding a research center at MIT that will focus on "developing advanced decision-making algorithms that will allow autonomous vehicles to make safe driving decisions with and without human input." The center will also be looking into advancing indoor mobile robotics for applications in new markets such as elder care.

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