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Toyota funds professorship in AI at U-Michigan

A $3 million gift from Toyota Motor Corporation endows the first named professorship in artificial intelligence at the University of Michigan and provides additional funding to support AI and robotics faculty.

The university’s Board of Regents has approved the creation and naming of the Toyota Professorship in Artificial Intelligence in the College of Engineering. Satinder Singh Baveja, a professor of computer science and engineering, was named the inaugural professor.

The gift establishes a $2.5 million endowment to support the professorship, providing funds to support research, teaching, and programs related to the faculty position. An additional $500,000 gift creates the Toyota Motor Corporation Faculty Scholar Award Fund to support assistant or recently tenured associate faculty members on AI or robotics projects.

“We are honored to fund this important new professorship,” said Dr. Gill Pratt, Toyota Research Institute CEO and Toyota Motor Corporation Fellow. “AI is an extremely important tool in our toolbox and the University of Michigan is one of our most important collaborators in our joint quest to bring to market a car incapable of causing a crash.”

"AI is an extremely important tool in our toolbox and the University of Michigan is one of our most important collaborators in our joint quest to bring to market a car incapable of causing a crash."
Gill Pratt, Toyota Research Institute CEO and Toyota Motor Corporation Fellow

Toyota and U-M have a broad partnership. The company’s research commitment of $22 million in 2016 has resulted in 27 research projects with over 40 U-M faculty in the areas of enhanced driving safety, partner robotics and indoor mobility, autonomous driving and student learning and diversity. Toyota Research Institute-Ann Arbor is one of Toyota’s three locations in the United States with a significant university research partnership. TRI hired Ryan Eustice, U-M professor of naval architecture and marine engineering, as senior vice president. Eustice retains a joint appointment at both U-M and TRI.

Singh Toyota Award
CSE Chair Brian Noble, Engineering Dean Alec Gallimore, Toyota Professor of Artificial Intelligence Satinder Singh Baveja, and Dr. Eric Krotkov, Chief Science Officer at Toyota Research Institute.

“We’re incredibly grateful for this generous gift,” said Brian Noble, chair of computer science and engineering. “AI has the power to truly transform our society, and will have impact far in to the future. Because this gift supports this work in perpetuity, generations of students and faculty will reap its rewards.”

Added Baveja, “It is an honor for me to be the inaugural Toyota Professor of Artificial Intelligence. Over the years that I’ve collaborated with multiple Toyota researchers, I’ve come to know their dedication to the ideals of excellence, creativity, and careful research that make for great science and progress for society. I look forward to further and deeper collaborations.”

This gift follows recent funding from Toyota to support diversity initiatives at the university, reflecting the institutions’ shared priorities to foster programs that create a diverse, talented workforce. In 2016, Toyota gave $1 million to two programs at the College of Engineering that support underrepresented students in engineering programs at U-M.

The Toyota Professorship is the fifth corporate designated professorship at the University of Michigan. Toyota sponsors another one of them: the Toyota Visiting Professorship in Asian Studies.

About University of Michigan Business Engagement Center

The Business Engagement Center (BEC) is the front door for industry to engage with the University of Michigan for research, philanthropy and recruiting. The BEC works with 1,200 companies every year to identify collaborative partnerships that foster innovative research, provide real world experience to U-M students, provide solutions to business challenges, and build the next generation of Leaders and Best. Our team of relationship managers works across U-M’s 19 schools and colleges and with all three U-M campuses to bring strategic opportunities to companies to engage with U-M faculty and staff.


By Nicole Casal Moore for the Michigan Engineer. Posted November 14, 2018