Toyota U.S. safety center studies teens, technology
Toyota’s Gulash: Completing first wave of projects
SUSONO, Japan -- Toyota's U.S.-based auto safety research center, established in January in response to last year's recall crisis, has three projects under way and is expecting to announce a full slate of research partners in September.
The Collaborative Safety Research Center is working on safety research with the University of Michigan, Virginia Tech and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said Senior Executive Engineer Chuck Gulash, the center's boss.
The safety center has about 10 staff members at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. Another 30 at other locations, including Japan, also are involved, Gulash said.
President Akio Toyoda announced the creation of the center at this year's Detroit auto show. He said it was part of Toyota's commitment to safety after the quality lapses that led to recalls of millions of Toyota and Lexus vehicles in 2009 and 2010.
The center is working on 20 safety issues, including distracted driving, pedestrian safety, senior drivers and better education of newly licensed teenagers. The idea is to team with universities, hospitals, research institutions and federal agencies and to leverage Toyota's engineering expertise, years of field experience and deep pockets.
Toyota is funding the projects with $50 million over five years.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Toyota auto safety event in Japan, Gulash said the safety center is examining research proposals and drawing up contracts for collaborations. Those agreements should be announced in September, completing the first round of projects.
Toyota identified the research areas for the first wave. But Toyota also may solicit outside proposals for research, Gulash said. Each project is seen running from one to four years.
The programs under way:
-- University of Michigan: Modeling the benefits of active safety technology in cars.
-- Virginia Tech: Effective coaching of teenage drivers in safe driving habits.
-- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: Assessing the effectiveness of safety technology on children.
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