Toyota's presence in Ann Arbor continues to grow. Pictured is the Toyota Technical Center near Ann Arbor.
Toyota is going all in on Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a global test site for connected cars to gather data for research into autonomous driving and safety applications.
In partnership with the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, Toyota’s goal is to equip 5,000 cars with information-gathering boxes that communicate wirelessly with similar vehicles and infrastructure such as traffic signals, the company said in a statement Wednesday.
The effort does not include Google-style autonomous cars sometimes seen on the streets of California and the Southwest.
Rather, regular drivers will be recruited to have a small box installed in the rear of their vehicles along with two small antennas on the trunk or the roof. The drivers will make their normal rounds.
“Connected vehicle safety technology allows vehicles to communicate wirelessly with other similarly equipped vehicles, and to communicate wirelessly with portions of the infrastructure -- such as traffic signals,” Toyota said.
Over time, the cars will gather massive amounts of data that can be used to develop the systems for self-driving cars or advanced technology features on traditional cars.
“The current limitation of connected vehicle testing outside of closed circuit test tracks is the lack of connected vehicles,” Toyota said. “In order to move autonomous driving toward reality, testing requires more cars, more drivers and more day-to-day miles travelled than any combination of research facilities could support.”
Along with other research programs, Toyota and U-M are transforming the streets of Ann Arbor “into the world’s largest operational, real-world deployment of connected vehicles and infrastructure,” Toyota said.
It’s the second announcement by Toyota in a week about its increased presence in Ann Arbor.
The Toyota Research Institute said Thursday that it will open an “autonomous vehicle research base” in conjunction with U-M.
It’s Toyota’s third such facility in the U.S. tied to elite universities specializing in artificial intelligence and self-driving vehicles: TRI already has centers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., and Stanford University in Silicon Valley.