Toyota Research Institute Building Closed-Course Self-Driving Vehicle Test Facility In Michigan

An around 60-acre site at Michigan Technical Resource Park (MITRP) in Ottawa Lake is now slated to be transformed by the Toyota Research Institute into a closed-course self-driving vehicle testing facility, following the filing of construction permits last week with relevant authorities.

The new facility is expected to go live sometime around October 2018 and will be used “exclusively” by the Toyota Research Institute for the testing (replication) of dangerous “edge cases” — with regard to driving scenarios.

That is, most self-driving vehicle tech systems are already effective the vast majority of the time but there are edge cases where the systems are known to perform worse than good human drivers do. (Note, this doesn’t relate much to the fatal pedestrian collision caused by Uber — which was mostly the result of negligence on the company’s part via the reliance on only one LiDAR sensor.)

The new facility is thus intended to be a site to test these dangerous edge case scenarios out in the real-world, but away from public roads.

The senior vice president of automated driving at the Toyota Research Institute, Ryan Eustice, stated: “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. 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.”

To provide a bit more information here, the new facility will be built inside MITRP’s 1.75-mile oval test track and will feature everything from a 4-lane divided highway with exit ramps and a high-speed entrance to congested urban streets.

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