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Gill Pratt joined Toyota earlier this year. He previously was a robotics program manager at DARPA, a US Defense Department agency (Photo: Toyota) 

Toyota Motor is investing 1 billion dlrs over the next five years in artificial intelligence and robotics, underscoring how the automotive industry's corporate priorities are changing.

The Japanese carmaker said it will establish a new company, Toyota Research Institute (TRI), in Silicon Valley near Stanford University. It will start operations January 1.

A second center will be opened near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at a later date.

The new venture will be headed by Gill Pratt, a robotics expert who recently joined Toyota from DARPA, a US Defense Department agency. Pratt will hire a team of researchers and engineers to pursue a wide range of activities.

In a press release, Pratt said TRI's initial goals we be:

  1. Reduce the likelihood of cars being in an accident
  2. Make driving accessible to everyone, regardless of ability
  3. The application of outdoor mobility technology to indoor usage, especially for older people.
Pratt also said TRI will look at ways to improve production efficiency and further develop new materials for industrial and other purposes.

TRI's primary mission will be "to accelerate R&D in a range of fields to help resolve society's future challenges by using artificial intelligence and big data," Toyota said. Artificial intelligence has significant potential to "support future industrial technologies and the creation of an entirely new industry," the carmaker said in its press release.