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Tech companies have played an important role in highlighting the potential of self-driving car technologies. It’s no secret that Google has been working hard to make this a reality, other companies like Tesla and even Apple are making the same efforts. This has been enough to make conventional car manufacturers jump on the bandwagon as well, many are promising to deliver some form of autonomous driving in their cars by the year 2020. Toyota isn’t going to sit idly while the world passes by, it’s going to spend a billion dollars on research for autonomous driving technologies.

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Speaking at a news conference Toyota President Akio Toyoda said that he used to be of the view that they’ll only go ahead with automated drive if the technology was good enough to beat humans in a 24-hour car race.

His views have since changed. “I changed my mind after I got involved with planning of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games (in Tokyo),” Toyoda says, mentioning that he saw how this technology can prove to be particularly useful for the disabled and elderly. Toyota is thus setting up a research facility in Silicon Valley which will be staffed by over 200 people, all working to speed up research and development in autonomous driving technologies as well as big data.

Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt pointed out that cars travels trillion kilometers every year and they produce a significant amount of information. “We can use that information for tremendous social good. It is the key to accelerate the evolution of our future technology,” he added.

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