Intelligent vehicle research facility to open in Ann Arbor

Toyota Research Institute is expanding its range of facilities with a new technology centre for AI, robotics and materials science research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Global vehicle manufacturer, Toyota, is planning to create a “Toyota Research Institute” (TRI) close to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, USA. This will be the third such facility to have been created by the Toyota USA and will be used for artificial intelligence, robotics and materials science research in the automotive field. The other two facilities are located near Stanford University in Palo Alto and near the MIT in Cambridge.

For more than 10 years, Toyota America’s technical facilities have been conducting autonomous vehicle research and the Ann Arbor centre will be lead by Professors Ryan Eustice and Edwin Olson, where they will work on mapping and localisation as well as perception technology.

Commenting on the choice of Ann Arbor as its latest choice of location and the roots Toyota has in that community, TRI’s CEO, Dr Gill Pratt said, “TRI was drawn to Ann Arbor because of the strength of the university, the Mcity and Mobility Transformation Centre, the promise of the future American Centre for Mobility at Willow Run and the proximity to our two well-established Toyota Technical Centres nearby.”

Professor Olson added that the researchers at TRI in Ann Arbor will push the frontiers of sensor hardware and algorithms further in order to provide safer vehicles.

Professor Eustice added that the new location is ideal for Toyota to expand its work in the field of autonomous driving. “We will benefit from Toyota’s existing team and the University of Michigan’s research talent and facilities where we can perform extreme-limit testing in a wide variety of environments,” he said.

The primary focus of the Ann Arbor facility will be on fully driverless cars, whilst the Palo Alto TRI facility will continue with driver assistance systems with the Cambridge location concentrating on simulation and deep learning.

The billion dollar funded TRI initiative has four initial aims:

1 – Improve vehicle safety to the point where cars are incapable of causing a crash regardless of the driver.
2 – To increase access to vehicles to enable extended mobility for the old and disabled.
3 – To transfer vehicle technology to improve mobility and technology in the home.
4 – Apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to the field of materials science.

Commenting on the scope of the research and TRI’s brief to go beyond what has already been done in what it terms “easy” driving conditions, Dr Pratt concluded, “Where we need autonomy to help most is when the driving is difficult. It’s this hard part that TRI intends to address. Toyota’s goal is safe mobility for all, at any time, in any place, and the tremendous improvements in quality of life that such universal mobility can bring.”

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Intelligent Mobility

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