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Toyota plunks down $22 million to advance AI research in Michigan

The Toyota Research Institute will provide that money to the University of Michigan over four years, which will hopefully have ripple effects on vehicle safety and autonomous driving.

One of Toyota's main rivals, Nissan, developed and built the Taxi of Tomorrow for New York City. That has no bearing on this, it's just a fun fact.
Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

In an effort to take advantage of the next technological breakthrough, automakers are throwing piles of money at startups and researchers around the world. Toyota is about to expand its investment portfolio with a $22 million commitment to the University of Michigan for artificial intelligence research.

Over four years, the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) will provide the University of Michigan with $22 million to be used for collaborations in a variety of fields, including driving safety, robotics, indoor mobility and -- of course -- autonomous driving.

This isn't Toyota's first tango with UM. It's a founding partner of the university's Mobility Transformation Center, which operates Mcity, a 32-acre site for car-tech development. The Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center sponsors research at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and Toyota already has two Toyota Technical Center campuses in the university's hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"Toyota has long enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the University of Michigan, and we are excited to expand our collective efforts to address complex mobility challenges through artificial intelligence," said Gill Pratt, CEO of TRI.

"We look forward to collaborating with U-M's research faculty and students to develop new intelligent technologies that will help drivers travel more safely, securely and efficiently. We will also focus on expanding the benefit of mobility technology to in-home support of older persons and those with special needs," Pratt said.

TRI is based in both Palo Alto, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. It's set to receive about $1 billion in investments over the next few years. The group's whole goal is to advance artificial intelligence research in the hopes of improving vehicle safely and expanding mobility options for those that may not be able to pilot a motor vehicle.

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