Toyota research arm to construct new test track for automated vehicles

Tests deemed too dangerous for self-driving vehicles to perform on public roadways will now be relegated to a new facility, thanks to the Toyota Research Institute (TRI). The carmaker’s research arm has announced the construction of a new closed-course test facility that will help Toyota continue to develop it autonomous car technology.

This week, the team filed construction permits in order to turn a 60-acre site at Michigan Technical Resource Park (MITRP) in Ottawa Lake into a new test track. Come October, the facility will be used “to safely replicate demanding ‘edge case’ driving scenarios,” the company said.

This new test track will be built within the resource park’s 1.75-mile oval test track, and will mimic a number of real-life scenarios, including crowded urban environments, slippery surfaces, and a four-lane divided highway complete with high-speed entrance and exit ramps. This site will expand TRI’s existing closed-course testing options — as it stands, the company has partnerships with GoMentum Station in California, and Mcity and the American Center for Mobility in Michigan.

“We are very excited about the partnership with TRI,” said Mike Jones, president of MITRP. “We believe that this relationship will be a proven winner.”

MITRP is no stranger to new technology. In fact, it has been around for five decades, ever since a so-called “tier-one automotive supplier” created the site for testing purposes. The technology park is 336 acres, and is used frequently by the automotive industry, in particular commercial vehicle and mobile off-highway vehicle builders and suppliers, to test their newest and most innovative technologies. Of course, having a track where this testing takes place is a far safer alternative than allowing untested vehicles onto the roads with other drivers.

“By constructing a course for ourselves, we can design it around our unique testing needs and rapidly advance capabilities, especially with Toyota Guardian automated vehicle mode,” said Ryan Eustice, TRI senior vice president of automated driving. “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.”

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