And had 2020 gone differently — say, without a devastating pandemic to muck things up — the Summer Olympics in Tokyo would have been a venue for demonstrating the progress the institute has made at its Ottawa Lake facility. Before the Olympics' postponement, Toyota had planned to give rides in autonomous vehicles at the games in Tokyo's crowded Odaiba district using technology developed here, as well as in more advanced labs in California and Japan.
The very rural Ottawa Lake facility "provides a place where we could validate all of the features and the capabilities before we are able to test them on public roads, so we could make sure everything is safe," explained Sharin Shin, senior manager of automated driving field operations with the institute.
The Toyota testing area opened in October 2018 on a piece of what was once a 320-acre test facility owned by drivetrain automotive supplier Dana Corp. Located in the middle grounds of a 2-mile concrete track, it consists of a large asphalt pad dotted with painted intermodal shipping containers and portable traffic lights. Infinitely configurable based on the simplicity of its design, the facility "is a kind of engineers' sandbox," Shin said. Another piece of the former Dana property is used as a marshaling yard by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to ship Jeeps and other vehicles around the country.
Surrounded by large earthen berms, test roadways and intersections have been painted on the asphalt to simulate real-world conditions, said Erin McColl, a mechatronics engineer who is a senior technical program manager in the driving division at the institute.