A $3 million gift from Toyota Motor Corp. endows the first named professorship in artificial intelligence at the University of Michigan and provides additional funding to support AI and robotics faculty.
The Board of Regents has approved the creation and naming of the Toyota Professorship in Artificial Intelligence in the College of Engineering. Satinder Singh Baveja, 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 Gill Pratt, Toyota Research Institute CEO and Toyota Motor Corp. 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.”
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 more than 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, professor of naval architecture and marine engineering, as senior vice president. Eustice retains a joint appointment at U-M and TRI.
“We’re incredibly grateful for this generous gift,” said Brian Noble, chair of the Department 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.”
“It is an honor for me to be the inaugural Toyota Professor of Artificial Intelligence,” Baveja said. “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 U-M. Toyota also sponsors the Toyota Visiting Professorship in Asian Studies.