Toyota to Test Critical Autonomous Driving Maneuvers in New Test Track

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【Summary】Developers are provided access to a 1.75-mile oval test track. When complete, the site will replicate a busy city.

Michael Cheng    Jun 15, 2018 12:49 PM PT
Toyota to Test Critical Autonomous Driving Maneuvers in New Test Track

Since the fatal car crash involving an autonomous vehicle operated by an Uber representative and a pedestrian in Arizona, Toyota has temporarily suspended trials on public roads. Such unforeseen events, however, will not stop the automaker from developing driverless cars.

In order to make testing safer and less risky, the company announced the development of a massive testing site in Michigan. The 60-acre location is a closed facility, which will focus on honing extremely critical self-driving maneuvers. Examples of dangerous maneuvers include approaching blind corners, exiting highway ramps and operating with reduced visibility in bad weather (rain, fog or snow).

Improving Safety through Testing

Located at Michigan Technical Resource Park in Ottawa Lake, the new facility will be utilized and managed by the Toyota Research Institute. So far, the company has completed the required construction permits for building. Toyota intends to make the track as realistic as possible, by setting up a divided highway consisting of four lanes with entry 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," said Ryan Eustice, TRI senior vice president of automated driving.

"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."

Developers are provided access to a 1.75-mile oval test track. When complete, the site will replicate a busy city. According to Toyota, the facility should start testing autonomous vehicles by October this year. Flexibility during testing is what the car manufacturer aims to boost inside the new facility. The company used the term ‘edge cases' in describing the types of scenarios it wants to setup.

Prior to Toyota's commitment in turning the location into a testing facility for autonomous vehicles, the site was used by a leading car supplier.

New Outlook

Toyota's approach for testing its autonomous products has changed since the fatal car crash. The business intends to exercise more caution by decreasing public exposure until its driverless platforms are fully ready to take on public environments and roads. According to a representative from the company, the auto manufacturer will return to testing on public roads after a few weeks.

"Because we feel the incident may have an emotional effect on our test drivers, we have decided to temporarily pause our [testing program]," said a Toyota representative.

Testing in closed facilities and tracks have not stopped since the incident. Toyota is currently trialing driverless cars at two closed sites near Detroit. The company has also taken some time to release upgrades to its autonomous systems.

As Toyota prepares to commence with public testing, Uber is still on the side lines, waiting for federal investigators to release their findings. Investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is currently ongoing about the ride-hailing giant's role in the deadly crash. Investigator-in-Charge Jennifer Morrison and three investigators are tasked with the examination of evidence.

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