Toyota to open third US research center in autonomous driving

SAN FRANCISCO — Japanese automaker Toyota said Thursday that it would establish its third US research center in Ann Arbor, near the University of Michigan campus this June to facilitate its work on autonomous driving.

Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, announced the move in a keynote speech at the GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California.

The Toyota research operations, headquartered in the Silicon Valley city of Palo Alto, has already opened research labs in Palo Alto working with Stanford University and in Cambridge working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Both of the labs are also designed to advance artificial intelligence, robotics and other cutting-edge technologies used in self-driving cars.

The research center in Ann Arbor in partnership with the University of Michigan will be led by professors of the university and have a staff of about 50.

Each of the three strategically located facilities will feature a different core discipline centered around autonomous driving, according to Toyota.

The Ann Arbor facility will focus primarily on fully autonomous driving, where no human interference is needed.

The Palo Alto facility will work on the so-called “guardian angel” driving, where the driver is always engaged with the vehicle. The Cambridge facility will give priority to simulation and deep learning.

Last year Toyota announced an investment of USD1 billion over five years starting 2016 in its Silicon Valley research operations aimed at accelerating advanced research and product planning with an initial focus on artificial intelligence and robotics that are critical to autonomous driving.

Toyota’s aggressive efforts are part of increasingly fierce competition to develop self-driving vehicles, which see other big players like Audi, Mercedes, Google and Tesla. PNA/Xinhua/