Toyota Bets on Test Facility in Autonomous Race

Toyota is ramping up its research into automated vehicle technology by opening a closed-course test facility in Michigan later this year.

Michigan Technical Resource Park trackThe Toyota Research Institute is slated to be built on a 60-acre site at Michigan Technical Resource Park in Ottawa Lake. Toyota will use the new testing ground to accelerate the development of its Toyota Guardian vehicle automation mode. The research facility will allow engineers to replicate "edge case" driving scenarios that are too dangerous to perform on public roads.

"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, in a press release. "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."

Autonomous vehicles have been in the news in recent months after a spate of accidents including a fatal crash in Tempe, Ariz., in March. Arizona suspended Uber from testing self-driving cars until the investigation is completed but the rideshare company is expected to restart the program in a few months.

According to the construction permits filed earlier this month, Toyota plans to build within a 1.75-mile oval test track that will include "congested urban environments, slick surfaces and four-lane divided highway with high-speed entrance and ramps." Toyota will have access to the track as well as other onsite facilities and services.

The Toyota Research Institute, established in 2015, is developing the automaker's autonomous driving technology to improve safety and convenience on the road.