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Toyota chief officer of R&D Group Kiyotaka Ise, shown here in September at a press conference announcing an artificial intelligence collaboration between Toyota and MIT and Stanford.

Toyota Scoops Up Robotics Engineering Firm

March 9, 2016
The tech talent war rages on in autonomous vehicle development.

The great grab continues for software talent to engineer technology for a self-driving car. Last May, Uber poached 40 researchers from Carnegie Mellon University to develop autonomous vehicle technology.  In August, Tesla’s top autonomous vehicle engineer defected to Apple.

 And now, Toyota Research Institute, the carmaker’s artificial intelligence arm, is announcing it has snapped up the 16-member software engineering team of Jaybridge Robotics, a developer of vehicle automation for heavy equipment.

In a news release today, Toyota said that the Jaybridge team “brings decades of experience developing, testing and supporting autonomous vehicle products,” complementing TRI’s research team.

The Jaybridge engineers will work at TRI’s Cambridge, Mass., facility. TRI also has a facility in Silicon Valley near Stanford University.

Last November, Toyota announced it was investing $1 billion to establish TRI, and also invested $50 million each in Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to establish joint artificial research centers. Jaybridge’s co-founder and Chief Technology officer, Josh Pieper, is an MIT graduate.

TRI’s stated goal has been to improve safety, make driving accessible to everyone and apply Toyota technology used in outdoor mobility to indoor environments, particularly to assist elderly people.

A Wall Street Journal article recently noted that small startups are entering the autonomous vehicle development game thanks to open-source self-driving software that universities have developed and provided. And laser-based LIDAR equipment needed for autonomy has dropped in price from $80,000 to around $8,000.

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