Get ready for a fleet of connected cars to hit the road in Ann Arbor.
Toyota and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute are teaming up to put a fleet of 5,000 research vehicles on the road as part of an ongoing partnership. Toyota says it will effectively create the world’s largest connected car proving ground.
The big deal here is we’re talking about cars doing real-world testing on public streets on a large scale. Until now, most vehicle-to-vehicle research has been conducted on closed circuits like Mcity. The research will be used to develop safe self-driving vehicles.
So where will all these vehicles come from? From Toyota’s own employees that it hopes to enlist as volunteers. Toyota plans to install a special vehicle awareness device on their everyday vehicles. The small box will be hidden out of sight in the vehicle’s rear or trunk and two small antennas will be placed on the car. They’ll collect information about driving habits and road conditions, then transmit the data from the cars to the research center.
The original project stems from back in 2012 when the U.S. Department of Transportation invested $30 million in the UMTRI Safety Pilot Model Deployment system. As part of that program, 3,000 vehicles were included in the research conducted in the northeast portion of the city. The new deal extends research to the entire 27 square miles of the city.
“We are thrilled to help UMTRI expand vehicle-to-vehicle testing well beyond the test track and on to the streets of Ann Arbor, ” says Wayne Powell, Toyota Technical Center vice president.
While the special device will be used to collect a lot of different types of information like a car’s position, speed, road conditions and traffic signals, Toyota says not to worry about privacy issues. The automaker says data transmitted from the vehicles will be uniquely identified, but will be kept confidential.