Google is a big IT company and Toyota is a giant of automobile industries. They may be categorized in different industries. However, they must be in tight competition in future because both of them will provide automobiles with artificial intelligence (AI). Let us consider this competition here. On 4 Sep, 2015, Toyota announced that it collaborates with MIT and Stanford University to develop artificial intelligence to be used in automobiles and robotics(1). Toyota thinks drivers can be supported by AI effectively. On the other hand, Google has been developing “self-driving car”, which needs no human interventions. It seems that Google hired John Krafcik, a car industry veteran who previously led Hyundai’s business in the U.S to work at Google self-driving car project (2). It seems that the competition between Google and Toyota has already started.
1 Definition of “automobile”
Although both of them use the term of “car”, each “car” is a little different from each other. According to Toyota, drivers should control their car while AI can support and assist drivers. On the other hand, Google promotes self-driving cars, which can drive without human interventions. The purpose of each “automobile” is the same. It is the transportation from place A to place B. However, each automobile looks completely different. Toyota AI automobiles might look the same as ordinal automobiles. They have a steering wheel, accel and brake pedal. On the other hand, Google self-driving cars have no steering wheel, no accel and brake pedal. They may be more compact than ordinal automobiles.
2 Self-driving car technologies and human centric technologies
Technologies of each “automobile” are similar. Both use state of the art technology “Artificial intelligence”. But the aim of each is a little different. It means that “Support” vs. “Control”. I remembered Toyota used “Fun to drive” as a corporate statement in the latter half of 1980s. Driving is fun because drivers can control cars by themselves. And Toyota uses the terms of ” human centric technologies”. In my view, Toyota thinks AI exists to support drivers and it is important to keep a good relationship between human and AI while human should play a major role in driving. On the other hand, Google thinking is simple. AI can control automobiles better than human. That is it!
3 Revolution or evolution?
The self-driving car is completely new for us in our daily lives. So it sounds revolutionary. On the other hand, Toyota AI car still needs driver and AI can assist drivers. So it sounds an evolution to me. Evolution, however, is not always easier than revolution. Because Toyota “human centric technologies” should include “human being” as a major part of the system. According to the video on Toyota websites, Toyota focus on collaboration between human and artificial intelligence. Therefore, human behavior should be analyzed and predicted so that AI knows when and how AI intervenes control of the automobile. If it is not accurate, this system does not work effectively. It seems to be more difficult than the system without human intervention is. AI should learn not only automobile behavior, but drivers’ behavior. As long as drivers take control automobiles, it is necessary and critically important for automobiles with AI.
Which automobile do you like better? The self-driving car is OK for you? Consumers may have different opinions by country. For example, ASEAN countries, including Malaysia are in the time of motorizations. Therefore, many consumers want to own and drive their cars by themselves. In addition to that, the train systems are not so convenient yet in most of the regions so they need their own cars anyway. On the other hand, in Japan, consumers are not so enthusiastic in owning cars anymore, especially for younger generations. For example, in 1980s, Japanese automobile companies produced many sports cars, which were stylish and reasonable for young consumers. They were very popular at that time. Now there are some because sports car is not so popular for younger generations in Japan anymore. In additions to that, in the big cities of Japan such as Tokyo and Osaka, there are a lot of train networks so there is no need to own cars in daily lives. Therefore Japanese consumers may be more likely to accept self-driving cars. I am sure each country should consider regulations about automobiles with AI carefully based on the needs and preferences of the people.
No one knows who wins Google or Toyota In 2025. But I am sure we need a lot of discussions about regulations, insurance, public transportation planning, jobs, and so on. I would like to keep watching it going forward.
1. Toyota Establishes Collaborative Research Centers with MIT and Stanford to Accelerate Artificial Intelligence Research, website of Totoya motor, 4, September 2015
2. Yes, true: I’m joining the Google Self-Driving Car project in late September. 13, September 2015, Twitter of John Krafcik
3. Google Self-Driving Car Project
Note: Toshifumi Kuga’s opinions and analyses are personal views and are intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only and should not be construed as individual investment advice or solicitation to buy, sell or hold any security or to adopt any investment strategy. The information in this article is rendered as at publication date and may change without notice and it is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any country, region market or investment.
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