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Toyota donates $100,000 for open-source self-driving simulator

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Sure, the models look a little weird, but the focus is on developing AVs' underlying systems and not creating Forza-tier car models.

Toyota plunked down a good chunk of money to get further along with CARLA, which sounds a little creepy but is actually a worthy cause.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI) announced this week that it will donate $100,000 to the Computer Vision Center to further development of CARLA (Car Learning to Act), an open-source simulator for autonomous driving. CARLA's code is hosted on Github, in case you're interested in poking around.

The CVC said that it will use the donation to grow its engineering team and improve the simulator. "CARLA is born to democratize research on automated driving, supporting training and testing of AI drivers beyond real-world limitations," said Dr. Antonio López, who is responsible for the CVC project, in a statement. "Obviously, we need to keep working to allow CARLA reach its full maturity, and this is why the sponsorship from Toyota is highly valuable."

The whole point of CARLA is to make it easier to share information gleaned from AV development. Simulating automated driving in urban environments, CARLA can help companies develop and validate their software in different conditions. Not only is its code open-source, all its digital assets (buildings, vehicles) are open and free for use. Its latest update added a digital version of Tesla's Model 3, since that car is all the rage right now.

TRI will use CARLA for its own benefit, as well. "Fostering the development of a common open simulation platform will allow TRI and its academic and industrial partners to better exchange code, information and data," said Vangelis Kokkevis, TRI's direction of driving simulation, in a statement.

This isn't the first time TRI has worked to boost open-source platforms. For the last two years, it's also made donations to the Open Source Robotics Foundation, which offers development tools and open-source software in the robotics field. It's also given money to Drake -- not the rapper, but an open-source C++ robotics toolbox for building control systems.