The need for more road-testing of self-driving vehicles has propelled Toyota to invest in another U.S. research site, in southern Michigan near the Ohio state line.
The automaker has acquired rights to use land in the Michigan Technical Resource Park in Ottawa Lake, Mich., 17 miles northeast of Toledo, Ohio. The 50-year-old park's 1.75-mile oval test track — originally created for auto part supplier research — has been seeing increased activity in recent years, and is also used as a storage yard for unsold FCA vehicles.
The site now offers Toyota a way to quickly ramp up U.S. research testing, said Rick Bourgoise, a spokesman for the automaker's autonomous driving arm, Toyota Research Institute, which has offices in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Los Altos, Calif.; and Cambridge, Mass.
Toyota intends to develop about 60 acres of the track's infield to conduct autonomous vehicle driving experiments that would be too risky for public roads. It will lease the land from the resource park.
"The existing test track gives us the ability to come in and construct on a greenfield inside the track's oval," Bourgoise said.
He declined to say how much Toyota will invest at the track, which will operate as Toyota's private course. It will feature areas designed to mimic congested urban environments, slick road surfaces, and a four-lane divided highway with high-speed entrance and exit ramps.
Toyota also gets access to the track's existing infrastructure, including garage space, a machine shop and office space.
Toyota will have exclusive use of the property inside of the oval. But Toyota's plans will consume only about half of the land in the inner ring, said Mike Jones, the technical park's owner. In total, the park encompasses 336 acres, and Jones now plans to further develop the land.
He said companies have been testing autonomous vehicles at his track for about three years.