Just about every car company out there is pushing hard to research and develop autonomous car technology. For its part, Toyota announced today a major partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) that will aim to harvest data on connected cars and vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Operating in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Toyota plans to deploy 5,000 vehicles over the next few years in what will be the planet’s largest real-world test of connected cars and infrastructure.
Dubbed the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment (AACVTE), the initiative will research and explore vehicle-to-vehicle communication as well as communication with infrastructure such as traffic signals. Toyota says that the applications for this research will be essential for the development of future technologies using connected-car and vehicle-to-vehicle technology, such as driver assistance and safety systems.
A small transponder box will be hidden inside the trunks of cars belonging to Toyota team members and their families, with two small antennae near the rear windshield and one on the trunk lid or roof. Signals sent between vehicles or with surrounding infrastructure, such as at intersections, monitor everyday driving behavior. Toyota hopes to roll out 1,500 vehicles per year to test in Ann Arbor’s 27 square miles.
The AACTVE project is in many ways an expansion of a previous Ann Arbor-based connected-car research study, which started in 2012 with a $30 million investment piloted by UMTRI and USDOT. Toyota’s cooperation helps that project significantly grow its fleet of vehicles as well as the geographical footprint of its test scale, both of which are said to critically accelerate the research and progress toward real-world autonomous driving. The study will likely be the future standard for nation-wide implementation of connected-car and vehicle-to-vehicle technologies.
Toyota’s announcement of its involvement with this endeavor comes just a few days after it announced it is building an autonomous driving research facility in Ann Arbor, partnering with the University of Michigan, as part of its $1 billion investment in the Toyota Research Institute. Toyota also has a hand in the University of Michigan’s MCity autonomous car test facility (pictured below), along with GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda.