Toyota Corolla gets a Mirai makeover

The Toyota Corolla was one of the best selling vehicles in the US in 2015, but the latest generation of the Honda Civic could be a major contender in the compact segment for the coming year. To keep up with the advancing competition, Toyota has a refreshed 2017 Corolla in the works, and the most obvious change for this recently spied example is a new nose that takes inspiration from the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan.

This test car has camouflage taped around the front, but the outline of the new grille is still visible. Like the Mirai, it flares downward from the top, and there are big gills at each corner. Toyota’s designers also reshape the headlights to give them a smoother appearance. The company masks the taillights heavily on this Corolla, which suggests tweaks to their shape, too.

You can expect Toyota to accompany the exterior updates with some interior refinements and possibly improved tech. It’s not yet clear whether powertrain tweaks will be forthcoming. However, we should have a better idea in the coming months because the refreshed Corolla would likely arrive this summer.

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Toyota hires team of experts for billion-dollar AI lab


Technical and advisory teams will guide and drive proprietary and academic research portfolio

Almost thirty new projects launched through collaborative research partnership with MIT and Stanford

New offices open in Palo Alto, CA and Cambridge, MA

Las Vegas, NV, January 5, 2016 ― The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) today announced the hiring of its technical leadership team, bringing together an all-star group of scientists and engineers to help drive research into artificial intelligence and robots. TRI CEO Gill Pratt introduced the technical team and initial TRI research programs in a press conference at the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show. In addition to the technical team, TRI work will be guided by an Advisory Board of corporate, scientific and public policy leaders from around the world.

First announced in November 2015, TRI is a research and development enterprise designed to bridge the gap between fundamental research and product development. Funded by an initial five-year, $1 billion investment, it has been launched with mandates to enhance the safety of automobiles, with the ultimate goal of creating a car that cannot be responsible for a collision; increase access to cars to those who otherwise cannot drive, including the handicapped and the elderly; help translate outdoor mobility technology into products for indoor mobility; and accelerate scientific discovery by applying techniques from artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“While the most important technology for enhancing human mobility has traditionally been hardware, today software and data are increasingly essential,” said Gill Pratt, Toyota Executive Technical Advisor and CEO of TRI. “Our leadership team brings decades of experience in pushing the boundaries of human knowledge in computer science and robotics, but we are only getting started. The scale of Toyota’s commitment reflects our belief in the importance of developing safe and reliable automated mobility systems. Simply put, we believe we can significantly improve the quality of life for all people, regardless of age, with mobility products in all aspects of life.”

The initial technical team includes:
– Eric Krotkov, Former DARPA Program Manager – Chief Operating Officer
– Larry Jackel, Former Bell Labs Department Head and DARPA Program Manager – Machine Learning
– James Kuffner, Former head of Google Robotics – Cloud Computing
– John Leonard, Samuel C. Collins Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering, MIT – Autonomous Driving
– Hiroshi Okajima, Project General Manager, R&D Management Division, Toyota Motor Corporation – Executive Liaison Officer
– Brian Storey, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Olin College of Engineering – Accelerating Scientific Discovery
– Russ Tedrake, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT – Simulation and Control

Professors Tedrake, Leonard and Storey will work part time with TRI and continue in their university roles.

The Advisory Board will be made up of a range of outside experts including:
– John Roos, former CEO of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati, and former US Ambassador to Japan – Chairman
– Rodney Brooks, former director of the MIT Computer Science and AI Lab, founder of iRobot and Founder, Chairman and CTO of Rethink Robotics – Deputy Chairman
– Richard Danzig, Former U.S. Navy Secretary
– Bran Ferren, former President of R & D at Walt Disney Imagineering and Chief Creative Officer of Applied Minds
– Fei-Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL)
– Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

The hiring announcement comes as TRI is moving quickly to launch its research and development programs. Two new facilities, one in Palo Alto, CA and the other in Cambridge, MA officially open in January. The two offices are located within ten-minute bike rides and walks to the Stanford and MIT campuses and will further accelerate TRI’s partnership with both universities.

Toyota has already committed $50 million over the next five years to support collaborative research into artificial intelligence and robotics research at Stanford and MIT. The program has identified and funded almost thirty initial research projects and project teams.

Toyota joins Ford in Livio app partnership

Toyota to Commercialize New Telematics System Using SmartDeviceLink
Agreement with Ford and Livio To Establish Industry Development and Operation Framework to Deploy SDL

Las Vegas, NV, January 4, 2016―Toyota Motor Corporation has entered into an agreement with Ford and Livio to establish an industry development and operation framework to deploy Livio’s SmartDeviceLink (SDL). Other automakers and app developers are welcome to join this collaboration. Toyota will also commercialize a telematics system using SDL.

SDL is an open source platform for smartphone apps and car connectivity where customers can use apps in their vehicle through voice recognition function and operation panel.

Shigeki Terashi, Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “Developing a safer and more secure in-car smartphone connectivity service which better matches individual vehicle features is exactly the value and advantage an automaker can offer customers. We expect that many companies share our view and will participate in the industry SDL collaboration.”

In August 2011, Toyota and Ford entered a collaboration agreement for next generation in-car telematics system standardization. In June 2015, Toyota entered into an agreement with Ford and Livio to explore SDL introduction to its vehicles. Toyota’s investigation and consideration of SDL has been completed successfully, and the company found SDL suitable for its in-car app connectivity.

With SDL, automakers can offer smartphone apps which match each company’s in-car system characteristics and interface. This enables customers to use apps they want more safely and comfortably.

At the same time, if more automakers apply SDL, app developers can develop apps which are compatible with multiple automakers’ telematics systems at one time, meaning more apps available to customers in a shorter development time.

At 2016 CES, Toyota will demonstrate an SDL integration in the Livio exhibit, LVCC – North from January 6th through the 9th. On Wednesday, January 6, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Ken-ichi Murata, General Manager of Toyota BR Connected Strategy and Planning, will appear at the SDL Summit. Murata and officials from Ford, Livio and others will deliver remarks followed by a Q+A session.

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