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Toyota Research Institute invests $22M in research on AI, robotics and autonomous driving at University of Michigan

Toyota Research Institute (TRI) (earlier post) is making a $22-million investment in research focused on artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous driving at the University of Michigan (U-M). TRI- CEO Gill Pratt made the announcement in an address to the U-M faculty.

Under the agreement, TRI will provide an initial $22 million over four years for research collaborations with the U-M faculty in the areas of enhanced driving safety, partner robotics and indoor mobility, autonomous driving and student learning and diversity.

Toyota has long enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the University of Michigan, and we are excited to expand our collective efforts to address complex mobility challenges through artificial intelligence. 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.

—Gil Pratt

Recently, TRI announced the establishment of its new Ann Arbor research facility (TRI-ANN) and the hiring of U-M robotics professors Ryan Eustice and Edwin Olson to support autonomous vehicle research. Both will retain U-M faculty positions part-time. TRI-ANN is the third TRI facility, joining TRI offices in Palo Alto near Stanford and in Cambridge, near MIT.

TRI was drawn to Ann Arbor because of the broad strengths of the university and the region, particularly in areas related to the emergence of high-level driver-assist systems, eventually leading to fully autonomous vehicles. TRI will also be near two well-established Toyota Technical Center campuses.

The partnership builds on Toyota’s strong and active presence in the Ann Arbor community. The two offices of the Toyota Technical Center have long worked with U-M on connected vehicles and safety research. Toyota is a founding partner of U-M’s Mobility Transformation Center (MTC), an interdisciplinary public-private research and development initiative that is developing the foundation for a commercially viable ecosystem of connected and automated vehicles.

MTC operates Mcity, a unique “mini-city” on a 32-acre site on campus that allows researchers to test emerging vehicle technologies rapidly and rigorously in a safe, controlled environment. In addition, Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center is a major sponsor of research at the U-M Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) focused on advanced safety technologies.

The challenges that TRI faces with autonomous cars will leverage our labs’ research into complex behaviors, like merging and understanding the intention of other vehicles from their actions.

—Edwin Olson

This collaboration is an effort to leverage robotics to improve quality of life in a variety of ways.

As part of this agreement, U-M will issue a broad call for proposals from faculty across the university to address challenges in mobility, safety and home robotics.

Toyota Research Institute is a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor North America under the direction of Dr. Gill Pratt. The company, established in 2015 with a $1 billion investment, aims to strengthen Toyota's research structure and has four initial mandates: 1) enhance the safety of automobiles; 2) increase access to cars to those who otherwise cannot drive; 3) translate Toyota’s expertise in creating products for outdoor mobility into products for indoor mobility; and 4) accelerate scientific discovery by applying techniques from artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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