Toyota Spends $50M on Self-Driving Car Research Centers

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By Keith Wagstaff

Toyota is spending $50 million on a pair of research centers that will develop technology for self-driving cars.

It's a joint project between the Japanese automaker and two U.S. colleges, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

To head the effort, Toyota hired one of the biggest names in robotics: Gill Pratt, former program manger at DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). He spearheaded the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a competition that brought teams from around the world together to compete for $3.5 million in prize money.

Now, he will be in charge of developing artificial intelligence meant to keep drivers safe in the autonomous cars of the future. Daniela Rus, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), announced on Friday that her center would be working on "developing a vehicle that’s incapable of having an accident."

Both MIT and Stanford's labs will be receiving $25 million in funding from Toyota.

Related: Can L.A. Kill Traffic With Self-Driving Cars?

This isn't the first partnership between companies and research institutions looking to build better self-driving cars. Uber is working with Carnegie Mellon and the University of Arizona, and several car companies (including Toyota) helped fund Mcity, a fake town run by the University of Michigan for testing autonomous vehicles.