The researcher hired by Toyota Motor Corp. to spearhead its robotics and artificial intelligence efforts says the automaker’s production principles can be applied to build affordable helper robots for rapidly aging societies.

Robot makers are struggling with the same scale challenges that the auto industry overcame with the “miracle” that occurred when Henry Ford developed the assembly line, according to Gill Pratt, the chief executive officer of Toyota Research Institute. Toyota’s vaunted production system later showed how to make cars both more cheaply and reliably, despite mistake-prone humans’ role in manufacturing, he said.

“My thought is, if the Toyota production system can be applied to cars, maybe it can also be applied to robots, because they’re quite similar,” Pratt told reporters Friday in Tokyo. He’s particularly sanguine about the prospects for devices that would help the elderly age where they live. “The car of the future and the robot of the future in the home are both essentially doing the same thing.”

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