Toyota commits $22 million to autonomous driving research

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) has announced that it will commit an initial $22 million to research focused on artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous driving at the University of Michigan (U-M).

TRI will provide the research funding over four years, collaborating with U-M on enhanced driving safety, partner robotics and indoor mobility, autonomous driving and student learning and diversity.

TRI recently established a research facility at Ann Arbor, Michigan, and hired U-M robotics professors Ryan Eustice and Edwin Olson to support its autonomous vehicle research. Both will continue part-time in their U–M faculty positions, said TRI.

Toyota is a founding partner of the university's Mobility Transformation Center, an R&D initiative that is working on the foundation for a commercially viable ecosystem of connected and automated vehicles.

As part of these efforts, the Center operates Mcity, a 'mini-city' that acts as a testing ground for researchers to try out new vehicle technologies in a safe and controlled environment. 

The car manufacturer also sponsors research into advanced safety technologies at the university's Transportation Research Institute through its Collaborative Safety Research Center.

Addressing faculty at U-M, TRI CEO Dr. Gill Pratt said: "We look forward to collaborating with U-M's research faculty and students to develop new intelligent technologies that will help drivers travel more safely, securely and efficiently. 

"We will also focus on expanding the benefit of mobility technology to in-home support of older persons and those with special needs."

S. Jack Hu, vice president for research at U-M, said: "At U–M, we are working closely with partners in industry and government to drive a revolution in connected, automated, and autonomous vehicles that will dramatically enhance the safety and efficiency of moving people and goods.

"Our expanding partnership with Toyota will help accelerate progress toward that goal."

Toyota Research Institute was established in 2015 with the aim of strengthening the car manufacturer's research structure. It has four initial mandates, which include enhancing the safety of automobiles and increasing access to cars for those who otherwise cannot drive.