Toyota plans research hub for autonomous vehicles in Michigan

Toyota’s in-house r&d division is setting up shop in Michigan.

The Toyota Research Institute said Thursday that it will open an “autonomous vehicle research base” in Ann Arbor, Mich., in conjunction with the University of Michigan.

It’s Toyota’s third such facility in the U.S. tied to elite universities specializing in artificial intelligence and self-driving vehicles: TRI already has centers with MIT in Cambridge, Mass., and Silicon Valley with Stanford University.

“Beyond the extraordinary work that the U-M is doing broadly in advancing automotive safety research — and in autonomous driving, in particular — Toyota has deep roots in the Ann Arbor community,” Gill Pratt, CEO of TRI, said ahead of the announcement, which he made during a keynote address at a conference in Silicon Valley.

The Ann Arbor location is scheduled to open in June and will eventually become home to about 50 employees. Staffing will include 15 Toyota employees transferred from the Toyota Technical Center in nearby York Township, where Toyota says it’s been researching autonomous cars for more than a decade.

A pair of Michigan engineering faculty members will join TRI as area leads: Ryan Eustice, an associate professor of naval architecture and marine engineering, and Edwin Olson, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Olson

The location will put this arm of TRI a stone’s throw from the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center, a collaborative facility where industry heavyweights such as Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Honda Motor Co. and tier one suppliers work with the Department of Transportation on the future of connected and automated vehicles.

It’s also the site of Mcity, a 32-acre complex that simulates urban and suburban driving situations for developing autonomous vehicles.

The Toyota Research Institute was established in late 2015 as part a $1 billion program over the next five years to elevate Toyota’s artificial intelligence, programming software, autonomous vehicle and robotics know-how.

The group is also working on creating a vehicle incapable of causing a crash and mobility solutions for people unable to drive.

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