Toyota Research Institute Launches AI Study of Human Behavior

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI)  in Los Altos is expanding research with the launch of Machine Assisted Cognition (MAC), a new initiative to develop and demonstrate artificial intelligence tools that can understand and predict human behavior in the context of decision making.

Translation: A computer can take control of a vehicle if the driver is doing something dumb. This is an extension of  so-called driver assist systems (intelligent cruise control, pre-crash braking and belt tightening, automatic emergency dialing, lane wandering alerts and such that are already in widespread use in luxury vehicles) and a necessary step on the bumpy road to autonomous vehicles. There also are much broader applications in human enterprises to help people think.

“A key pillar of TRI’s charter is to explore ‘what’s next’ for Toyota, and MAC is another way TRI can apply its AI expertise to help humans perform better,” said Eric Krotkov, TRI’s Chief Science Officer. “Our vision is to create a human amplification system for Toyota where people and machines work together synergistically to make better predictions, forecasts and business decisions, and do so more quickly.”

MAC is projected to be scalable, using the size of the available data or decision-making group. TRI also believes it is essential to respect principles of transparency and privacy in the collection and usage of data.

TRI has hired Franziska Bell as Senior Director to manage the MAC program. She is now hiring a new team of interdisciplinary researchers including behavioral scientists and will have oversight of the Accelerated Materials Design and Discovery (AMDD) program led by Brian Storey. Bell joins TRI from Uber where she served as the Head of Platform Data Science and created working teams around forecasting, anomaly detection and conversational AI.

The MAC team will initially build and test fundamental capabilities. They will pursue use cases that could have a generally applicable solution for different business functions. Once a proof of concept has been developed, the group will explore specific capabilities that can support the needs of Toyota users in different parts of the organization such as sales, product planning, engineering and R&D.  Furthermore, TRI hopes that MAC will also contribute to a deeper understanding of human behavior so as to allegedly improve society.

Throughout its history, TRI has engaged with universities to conduct sponsored research in artificial intelligence. As additional support for the MAC research, TRI will engage academic collaborators on joint research projects. “Partners and projects will be determined later, but the focus will be on achieving breakthroughs around difficult technological challenges.”

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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