Toyota building self-drive test track in Ottawa Lake
Toyota Motor Corp. is amping up its autonomous vehicle testing in Southeast Michigan with a deal to build a closed 60-acre facility in Ottawa Lake.
The Toyota Research Institute filed construction permits this week to repurpose land at the Michigan Technical Resource Park in Ottawa Lake, which is about 45 miles south of TRI’s Ann Arbor headquarters. The facility is expected to open in October.
MITRP is a 336-acre technology park and automotive proving ground that offers automakers and suppliers a variety of on-road and off-road testing.
The new test track will be built inside MITRP’s 1.75-mile oval test track. It will be used exclusively by TRI “to safely replicate demanding ‘edge case’ driving scenarios, too dangerous to perform on public roads,” Toyota said. The new test track will simulate congested urban environments, slick surfaces and a four-lane divided highway with high-speed entrance and exit ramps.
“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,” Ryan Eustice, TRI senior vice president of automated driving, said in a Thursday statement. “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.”
Toyota Motor North America is also a founding donor at the American Center for Mobility, an autonomous test facility at Willow Run. It was among the first to conduct testing at the Ypsilanti facility when it opened in December. Toyota has also invested self-driving car test-center Mcity at the University of Michigan.
The Japanese automaker suspended tests of its “Chauffeur” autonomous driving system on public roads in Michigan and California following a fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber in Tempe, Arizona. A Toyota spokesman said this testing is still suspended, but will resume in the coming weeks. The automaker’s closed-track testing at ACM, Mcity and GoMentum Station in California have continued while public road testing is paused.
TRI is leasing the land from the Michigan Technical Resource Park, but the Toyota institute will direct all design, construction and maintenance of the facility going forward. TRI will also have access to the oval track and other facilities and services, which are owned by MITRP and provided to all its customers.