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WCX Preview: Toyota Research Institute’s Avinash Balachandran talks automotive future with AI disruptor

Posted: March 27, 2024

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) grows more sophisticated, the conversations around its applications are more complex and impossible to avoid.

With this new technology looming, professionals are at a crossroads that will shape our future, and the automotive industry is not immune.

Avinash Balachandran, Ph.D., Senior Director of Human Interactive Driving at Toyota Research Institute (TRI), knows the tech is polarizing, and plans to address some of the concerns around AI in his talk Driving Forward or Braking Hard? The Age of AI in the Automotive Industry at WCX, happening April 16-18, 2024, in Detroit, Michigan.

“I think one of the natural concerns about AI is how it will affect society. In particular, will it make jobs obsolete? Will it create sort of this whole of sameness where human creativity and innovation is fizzling out? And I think this is a valid fear,” Dr. Balachandran said. “What I’m really going to focus on in my talk is a different paradigm that is really connected to the values we have at Toyota—in particular jidoka, or human centered automation. How do we have AI amplify people to really help them reach their full potentials rather than replace them?”

In the automotive industry, Dr. Balachandran identifies four areas where AI will come into play: design and engineering, manufacturing, vehicle experience, and bringing the vehicle to the public. His talk will examine AI as a disruptor in these areas, and how to reduce muda, a term Toyota uses to describe “non-value added” work that creates churn rather than progress.

“At a high level, I think AI has such a huge potential to impact the way that we work. I think everybody is recognizing this, and I think there’s a lot of interest now to look at existing processes and see how we can use AI to reduce more muda, increase happiness, and make this work more productive—and that’s really a useful thing,” Dr. Balachandran said.

Dr. Balachandran anticipates AI to have the same cultural shift of work as inventions of the industrial revolution. This comparison created a self-described “aha” moment for his work with Toyota, guiding his thought process for the next phase of work.

“After the [Industrial] Revolution where we created the concept of factories and huge supply chains, you can imagine AI being just as disruptive,” he said. “How do you rethink the entire process of building cars, and mobility in the age of AI? I think that’s the moment. It’s the ability to redesign how we think.”

Ready to redesign your thinking? Register now to attend Dr. Balachandran’s can’t-miss keynote address at WCX.

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