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Toyota, NTT sign capital tie-up over "smart city" project

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Toyota Motor Corp. and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., Japan's auto and telecommunications giants, formed a capital tie-up Tuesday to build energy-efficient "smart cities" where autonomous vehicles transport residents. The two firms, which have been developing "connected cars" equipped with advanced telecommunication systems since 2017, deepened their partnership into mutual shareholdings, with each investing around 200 billion yen ($1.8 billion) by purchasing each other's treasury stocks. Toyota said it will start the smart city project at a 175-acre site at the foot of Mt. Toyota has said only fully autonomous, zero-emission vehicles are allowed to travel on main streets in the envisioned smart city where around 2,000 residents have in-home robotics to assist their daily lives. NTT also said it will launch an internet-led smart city project at an NTT-related block in Shinagawa area in Tokyo's Minato Ward.


Toyota uses big data to guard against accelerator-brake mix-up - Reuters

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp unveiled an emergency safety system on Monday that uses big data to ignore the accelerator if it determines the driver steps on the pedal unintentionally. Japan's biggest car maker will roll out what it calls an "accelerator suppression function" in new cars from this summer, beginning in Japan. The system is a response to an increasingly common cause of traffic accident in ageing Japan where the driver, often elderly, mistakes the accelerator for the brake. Some 15% of fatal accidents on Japanese roads in 2018 were caused by drivers who were 75 years or older, showed a report from the government, which actively encourages elderly drivers to give up their licenses. Toyota's announcement comes as automakers globally invest heavily in so-called active safety features as they work to develop fully autonomous cars.


Toyota is building a 'smart' city to test AI, robots and self-driving cars

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Carmaker Toyota has unveiled plans for a 2,000-person "city of the future," where it will test autonomous vehicles, smart technology and robot-assisted living. The ambitious project, dubbed Woven City, is set to break ground next year in the foothills of Japan's Mount Fuji, about 60 miles from Tokyo. Announcing the project at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Toyota's CEO Akio Toyoda described the new city as a "living laboratory" that will allow researchers, scientists and engineers to test emerging technology in a "real-life environment." A digital mock-up shows small autonomous vehicles operating alongside pedestrians. "With people buildings and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test AI technology, in both the virtual and the physical world, maximizing its potential," he said on stage during Tuesday's unveiling.


Honda plans to launch 'level 3' autonomous vehicle this year

The Japan Times

Honda Motor Co. is preparing this year to become the first Japanese automaker to launch a vehicle with "level 3" autonomous driving, according to sources familiar with the matter. Level 3 autonomy frees up the driver to engage in different activities, such as reading or watching TV. Honda's car is expected to offer such hands-off capabilities only in slow traffic on congested expressways, the sources said. Audi AG already sells cars capable of level 3 autonomy in Japan, with self-driving available at busy times on expressways. Honda's car will likely be introduced after Japanese carmakers jointly test autonomous vehicle operations on public roads in Tokyo around July, they said.


Toyota unveils upgraded version of its humanoid robot with greater sense of touch

The Japan Times

Toyota Motor Corp. has unveiled an upgraded version of its human-shaped T-HR3 robot. The robot, which is controlled remotely by a person wearing a headset and wiring on his or her arms and hands, now has faster and smoother finger movements because the controlling device is lighter and easier to use. Such a robot could, in the future, be used to perform surgery in a distant place where a doctor cannot travel. It also might allow people to feel like they're participating in events they can't actually attend. In a recent demonstration in Tokyo, a person wearing a headset and wiring made the robot move in exactly the same way he was moving, waving or making dance-like movements.


Toyota reveals update of 'avatar' humanoid robot

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Toyota has revealed the next update of its T-HR3 humanoid'avatar' service robot ahead of next year's Olympic Games. The robot is capable of flexible movements that mirror the actions of its human operators up to six miles away, almost in real time. Using a 5G connection and a human controller connected to wiring and a VR headset, the new T-HR3 is now able to execute more difficult tasks than before. This includes walking in a smoother, more natural manner and even preparing drinks, as demonstrated at this year's International Robotic Exhibition in Tokyo. The new and improved T-HR3 – which was first launched in 2017 – grasps a cocktail shaker at this year's International Robotic Exhibition in Tokyo'Avatar robots like T-HR3, which possess an actual body, are capable of going beyond VR to physically influence the real world,' said T-HR3 Development Team Leader Tomohisa Moridaira.


Toyota to use advanced self-driving tech in commercial vehicles first

The Japan Times

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to first deploy advanced self-driving features in commercial vehicles before adding them to cars meant for personal use, a senior official at the Japanese auto major said on Tuesday. It will be easier to apply self-driving technology that does not require constant and direct human-monitoring to taxis and vehicles Toyota is developing, including on-demand ride services, mobile shops and ambulatory hospitals, said James Kuffner, chief of Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD). The operators of these vehicles could control when and where they are deployed and oversee their maintenance, he told reporters at the opening of its new offices in Tokyo. "It will take more time to achieve'Level 4' for a personally-owned vehicle," Kuffner said, referring to the automation level at which vehicles can drive themselves under limited conditions. "Level 4 is really what we're striving for to first appear in mobility as a service," he added.


Driving may need human touch for a while longer

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The reality of current self-driving systems doesn't match up with consumers' expectations, he said. "What we've done is we've misled the public into thinking this car is going to be like a human brain to be able to really figure out new things and say, 'Here's something I hadn't seen before, but I know what's going on here, and here's how I should handle it,' " Wozniak said. "A human can do that." His statements come as more automakers and governments are beginning to predict that artifcial intelligence (AI) and self-driving cars might take longer to become reality, in the wake of fatal accidents by "autopilot" cars that have shown the complexity of the technology. Component manufacturers and venture companies working on the technology are revising their timeline for AI deployment significantly, Toyota's Executive Vice-President Shigeki Tomoyama said at the Tokyo motor show.


Electronics firms expand business in self-driving, EV technology

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Electronics and other non-automotive companies are eager to expand their businesses in the auto industry where innovations will be key factors amid the growing need for autonomous and electrified vehicles. At the Tokyo Motor Show, open to the public from Friday to Nov. 4, many electronics firms including Hitachi Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Panasonic Corp. are showcasing their products and services. Such companies are trying to take advantage of their experience and knowledge to manufacture motors, inverters and sensors that are indispensable to assemble autonomous and electrified cars. More than 50 percent of vehicles will be fully or partly powered by electricity by 2040, according to an estimate by the International Energy Agency. Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd., an automotive business unit of Hitachi group, produces motors and inverters for electric vehicles as well as electronic control units of advanced driving assistance systems.


Electronics firms from Japan and beyond expand business in self-driving and EV technology

The Japan Times

Electronics firms and other non-automotive companies are eager to expand their businesses in the auto sector, where innovations are seen as essential amid the growing need for autonomous and electric vehicles. At the Tokyo Motor Show, open to the public from Friday to Nov. 4, many electronics firms including Hitachi Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Panasonic Corp. are showcasing their products and services. Such companies are trying to take advantage of their experience and knowledge to manufacture motors, inverters and sensors that will become indispensable to assemble autonomous and electric cars. More than 50 percent of vehicles will be fully or partly powered by electricity by 2040, according to an estimate by the International Energy Agency. Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd., an automotive unit of Hitachi group, produces motors and inverters for electric vehicles as well as electronic control units for advanced driving assistance systems.