Toyota ramping up its autonomous driving and advanced mobility research in Ann Arbor is just the tip of the iceberg for the automaker's plans for the Michigan city.
On Wednesday, Toyota announced that it's partnering with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (Umtri) to flood the streets of Ann Arbor, making it the world's largest hotbed for the real-world deployment of connected vehicles.
It's all a part of the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment (AAcvte) initiative, which aims to allow connected vehicles to communicate with each other wirelessly as well as with parts of the smart infrastructure set up in Ann Arbor — such as the traffic lights. The idea is for other parts of the United States to see how Ann Arbor is leading this space and implement it across the country with time.
"Ann Arbor is an international hub for connected vehicle technology and research and it has everything to do with the community," James R. Sayer, director of Umtri, said in Toyota's press release statement Wednesday. "Toyota is again demonstrating their commitment to the community by their investment in the recently announced TRI, and by encouraging employees to participate in cutting-edge research."
Added Toyota technical center vice president Wayne Powell: "We are thrilled to help Umtri expand vehicle-to-vehicle testing well beyond the test track and on to the streets of Ann Arbor."
According to Toyota, the current limitation of connected vehicle testing outside of a closed circuit test track has to do with the lack of connected vehicles. However, as part of its agreement with Umtri, Toyota will have team members and their families participating in the AAcvte initiative by allowing them to have their vehicles equipped with advanced vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V)/vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) systems in the region.
The automaker's goal is to have 5,000 connected vehicles on the road throughout Ann Arbor, proving its technology to enable the U.S. Department of Transportation's vision for the national deployment of V2V/V2I vehicles.
Toyota says each connected vehicle will be equipped with a vehicle awareness device, a small box that will be hidden in the vehicle's trunk or rear area, with two antennas. The device continuously transmits speed and position data from one connected vehicle to another.
The study's results will be available to both the Umtri and Department of Transportation for further consideration of V2V/V2I deployment.
It will be intriguing to see the strides that Toyota and Umtri will be able to make with this testing in Ann Arbor.