Toyota's research wing, the Toyota Research Institute, is currently hard at work building out a 60-acre closed-course test facility for automated vehicle technologies in Ottawa Lake Michigan. That's according to a recent announcement made by the company via its global newsroom site. The permits on the test facility were filed this week and the site will be used exclusively by Toyota Research Institute. Details are slim, with regard to what exactly what the company will be testing at the site. However, it has been relayed that the course will primarily be used to replicate driving scenarios that are too dangerous for public road testing. The facility is expected to go operational sometime in October of this year.
With regard to the precise location of the test facility, it will be located at the Michigan Technical Resource Park. That land will be leased for an unspecified period of time and Toyota will be responsible for the design, construction, and maintenance of the facility for the duration. More specifically, it's being constructed within the Resource Park's 1.75-mile long oval test track, which has a long history of use for automotive development. Once completed, it will include several different aspects designed to push the technology involved in the tests to its limits and beyond. That will include areas designed to simulate high-congestion urban environments, as well as a four-lane divided highway, complete with the associated high-speed ramps. Toyota says that "slick surfaces" will also be present in abundance.
Although this type of scenario would also likely be a great facility for testing fully autonomous vehicles, that doesn't actually seem to be the case here. Instead, TRI Senior Vice President of Automated Driving Ryan Eustice says that the goal is to move development forward in terms of human-driven vehicles. Ideally, the ultimate result of these kinds of tests, for Toyota, is to eventually create a car with semi-autonomous functionality which makes it impossible for the human driver to cause an accident. Whether or not that's truly attainable is, of course, questionable, but it stands to reason that the human-driven vehicle of the future would include features that are similar in purpose. Modern automobiles already utilize various sensors for automatic braking on the highway or when parking to prevent collisions. They also help with keeping inside of a lane. So that would be the logical next step, without removing the human driver entirely.