There’s a slew of automakers and other transportation technology companies out there testing their autonomous prototypes on open roads. But Toyota, for one, says that some of that testing is too dangerous to carry out on public streets, what with other motorists, pedestrians and such. So it’s building a special test facility just for the purpose.
The Toyota Research Institute is constructing the test track at the Michigan Technical Resource Park. It’ll take up about 60 acres (a quarter of a square kilometer) inside the MITRP’s 1.75-mile oval test track and will replicate a variety of environments, including city streets, four-lane divided highways (with on- and off-ramps) and slick surfaces."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, head of TRI’s autonomous vehicle program. "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."MITRP is an independent test facility in Ottawa Lake. Not to be confused with the Canadian capital, it’s located about an hour and a quarter southwest of Detroit, and just 20 minutes outside Toledo, Ohio. The complex opened in 1968 and went independent in 2010. It incorporates some 336 acres (1.36 square kilometers), and Toyota Motor North America’s R&D institute will now lease the space for its autonomous vehicle test facility. The new test track is set to open in October.