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Toyota to Invest $22 Million in University of Michigan Robotics Research

Aug. 10, 2016
Over four years, Toyota Research Institute will collaborate with the university on enhanced driving safety, partner robotics and indoor mobility, autonomous driving and student learning and diversity.

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) announced today that it will invest $22 million in research at the University of Michigan on artificial intelligence, robotics and automation.

“Toyota has long enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the University of Michigan, and we are excited to expand our collective efforts to address complex mobility challenges through artificial intelligence,” said Gill Pratt, CEO of TRI, in a statement.

Under the agreement, TRI will provide an initial $22 million over four years for research collaborations with the U-M faculty in the areas of enhanced driving safety, partner robotics and indoor mobility, autonomous driving and student learning and diversity.

Recently, TRI announced the establishment of its new Ann Arbor research facility (TRI-ANN) and the hiring of U-M robotics professors Ryan Eustice and Edwin Olson to support autonomous vehicle research. Both will retain U-M faculty positions part-time. TRI-ANN is the third TRI facility, joining TRI offices in Palo Alto near Stanford and in Cambridge, near MIT.

TRI was drawn to Ann Arbor because of the strengths of the university and the region, particularly in areas related to the emergence of high-level driver-assist systems, eventually leading to fully autonomous vehicles, a press release stated. TRI will also be near two Toyota Technical Center campuses that have been collaborating with U-M on connected vehicles and safety research.

Toyota is a founding partner of U-M’s Mobility Transformation Center (MTC), an interdisciplinary public-private research and development initiative that is developing the foundation for a commercially viable ecosystem of connected and automated vehicles.

MTC operates Mcity, a “mini-city” on a 32-acre site on campus that allows researchers to test emerging vehicle technologies rapidly and rigorously in a safe, controlled environment.

Eustice said the U-M labs aim to “push the envelope of what robots can sense and understand about the world,” and TRI hopes to translate that research into real-world products.

Olson said that the collaboration will apply research into complex behaviors done at the U-M labs, “like merging and understanding the intention of other vehicles from their actions.”

As part of the agreement, U-M will issue a broad call for proposals from faculty across the university to address challenges in mobility, safety and home robotics.

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