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Toyota Research Institute

Toyota building test track for 'dangerous' autonomy tests

It'll be used to determine how its self-driving tech acts in "edge case" situations.

Not every test for autonomous-driving systems can be done on public roads, given the risks inherent of being around the public with fledgling tech. That's why Toyota Research Institute is setting up a new shop in Michigan.

Toyota Research Institute, the wing of Toyota focused on AI and autonomy, announced today that it will build a closed-course test facility at the Michigan Technical Resource Park (MITRP) in Ottawa Lake. It will lease roughly 60 acres of land from MITRP, and it will still have access to MITRP's public offerings like its oval track. MITRP's full footprint measures some 336 acres.

Operating inside the oval track, TRI will build out its facility to include replications of congested city streets, a four-lane divided highway and low-traction surfaces.

TRI will use this new facility to test edge case scenarios, which the firm has deemed too dangerous to test on public roads. "This new site will give us the flexibility to customize driving scenarios that will push the limits of our technology and move us closer to conceiving a human-driven vehicle that is incapable of causing a crash," said Ryan Eustice, TRI's senior vice president of automated driving, in a statement.

The testing will focus on Toyota Research Institute's Guardian driving tech, one of two it's developing. Guardian leaves ultimate control to the driver, instead operating in the background. It can alert the driver to oncoming dangers, and if necessary, take actions to prevent a collision. The other system, Chauffer, focuses on autonomy that doesn't require human intervention. Toyota believes Guardian will be the first of its tech to reach the market.

TRI's facility will live inside that oval. With everything it wants to build in there, it's going to be busy.

Toyota Research Institute