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At Toyota, The Automation Is Human-Powered

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On the assembly line in Toyota's low-strung, sprawling Georgetown, Kentucky factory, worker ingenuity pops up in the least expected places. Even as the automaker unveils an updated version of its vaunted production system, called the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), the company has resisted the very modern allure of automation–a particularly contrarian stance to take in the car industry, which is estimated to be responsible for over half of commercial robot purchases in North America. Despite its dry subject, this book had a radical impact inside and outside of the business community–for the first time, unveiling the mysteries of Japanese industrial expertise and popularizing terms like lean production, continuous improvement, andon assembly lines, seven wastes or mudas and product flow. Codified as the Toyota New Global Architecture, this strategy doesn't primarily target labor to reduce production expenses but instead is weighted toward smarter use of materials; reengineering automobiles so their component parts are lighter and more compact and their weight distribution is maxed out for performance and fuel efficiency; more economical global sharing of engine and vehicle models (trimming back more than 100 different platforms to fewer than ten); and a renewed emphasis on elusive lean concepts, such as processes that allow assembly lines to produce a different car one after another with no downtime.


Special Report: Inside Google's quest to shape the rules of the driverless road

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A small convoy of its driverless cars cruised into the fading asphalt parking lot to give test drives – test rides, actually – to American mayors visiting Austin's annual South by Southwest tech-and-culture festival. The proliferation of cities is aimed at gaining public acceptance for driverless cars, Google executives acknowledge, in addition to testing them in different driving conditions. That paves the way for regulators to make subsequent rulings that autonomous vehicles don't need steering wheels, brake pedals, accelerator pedals or other things that humans use to control motor vehicles. But in California, Google's home state, officials want all autonomous vehicles to have steering wheels, brake pedals and accelerator pedals – which amounts to ensuring that driverless cars can have drivers.


A Simple Way to Hasten the Arrival of Self-Driving Cars

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Researchers from Oxford University released the detailed data set, which highlights some of the most challenging issues that self-driving cars will face. The researchers tracked the sort of variation that self-driving cars will need to cope with day to day--moving vehicles, cars parked in different ways, and variations in lighting. Leonard adds that if the companies developing self-driving cars shared their data, it could hasten the arrival of the lifesaving technology. "More generally, I think it would be great if more groups working on self-driving cars could share data sets, and also to make more of the tools available as open source," he says.


Toyota Is Turning This City Into a Giant Connected Car Experiment

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Toyota, the world's largest automaker, is sending 5,000 connected cars that can wirelessly communicate with other vehicles and infrastructure onto the streets of Ann Arbor, Mich., in a real-world experiment designed to move autonomous driving closer to reality. "In order to move autonomous driving toward reality, testing requires more cars, more drivers, and more day-to-day miles traveled than any combination of research facilities could support." The announcement comes on the heels of Toyota's plans to add a third artificial intelligence and robotics center in Ann Arbor. The technology is largely being developed for self-driving cars, but the institute is also researching and developing AI products for the home.


Toyota is turning Ann Arbor into global test site for connected cars

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Toyota is going all in on Ann Arbor, Mich., as a global test site for connected cars to gather data for research into autonomous driving and safety applications. In partnership with the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute, Toyota's goal is to equip 5,000 cars with information-gathering boxes that communicate wirelessly with similar vehicles and infrastructure such as traffic signals, the company said in a statement today. "Connected vehicle safety technology allows vehicles to communicate wirelessly with other similarly equipped vehicles, and to communicate wirelessly with portions of the infrastructure -- such as traffic signals," Toyota said. Along with other research programs, Toyota and U-M are transforming the streets of Ann Arbor "into the world's largest operational, real-world deployment of connected vehicles and infrastructure," Toyota said.


Toyota Joins the Race for Self-Driving Cars with an Invisible Copilot

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"In the same way that antilock braking and emergency braking work, there is a virtual driver that is trying to make sure you don't have an accident by temporarily taking control from you," explains Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, a company the carmaker created last year with 1 billion in funding to research automated driving, artificial intelligence, and robotics (see "Toyota's Billion-Dollar Bet"). Pratt announced the guardian-angel effort, as well as plans to create a new TRI facility close to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, during a speech at a conference in San Jose today. This will make it possible to see how people respond in realistic crash scenarios. However, much existing safety technology, including power steering, lane-departure prevention, and automatic braking, are examples of partial autonomy.


92-Cent Crash Avoidance Sensor Drives Share Rise for Japan Maker

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Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Baidu Inc. aim to introduce driverless cars in as soon as five years. The chipmaker plans to invest as much as 1 billion yen ( 9.2 million) to expand manufacturing capacity in the Philippines, he said. Nippon Ceramic, which controls about 50 percent of the global market for ultrasonic sensors, is expected to almost double its net income by 2018, according to the average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Japanese suppliers Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. and NEC Corp. also make sensors for autonomous driving systems.