$35M Ann Arbor Investment Drives Toyota’s Focus on Autonomous Vehicles

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Thanks to a new $35 million commitment, Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center in Ann Arbor has expanded its mission to focus on the transition to autonomous cars and connected vehicles, an effort that will extend into the 2020s.

As part of the project, researchers will explore the relationship between future mobility and broader social trends, such as the growth of networked “Smart Homes” and the soâ€called “Quantified Self” associated with the rise in wearable devices.

“At Toyota, we believe in the fundamental principle that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen,” says Osamu Nagata, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America. “As new automotive technologies continue to evolve, CSRC is committed to working with its partners across the industry and beyond to help realize a future of mobility that is safer and greener than today.”

Research under the new mission reflects the role that advanced technology plays in the reshaping of the transportation landscape, says Chuck Gulash, director of the center. Staff will focus on developing human/machine interface guidelines for nextâ€generation automated and connected vehicle systems and the skills required to operate these technologies safely.

Researchers will also consider the challenges that may come up when automated, connected, and traditional vehicles are all traveling on the same roads.

“Thanks to these exciting automated and connected vehicle technologies, drivers and their vehicles are increasingly working together as teammates and sharing more responsibilities on the road,” Gulash says. “We hope to help pave the way for the safe introduction of these new systems, not only by refining the technologies, but also by preparing the drivers who will be using them — with the continued goal of saving lives.”

Since 2011, the center has focused its research on active safety, driver distraction, and atâ€risk traffic populations — including children, teens, pedestrians, and seniors — to better understand how to help protect people in crashes and prevent collisions from happening. The center has launched 34 research projects with 17 partner institutions.

Moving forward, Gulash says the staff will begin engaging with stakeholders to identify gaps in knowledge and key research priorities as society begins to transition to the future of mobility.

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