Toyota Adding Research Base for Autonomous Cars in Michigan

  • Ann Arbor facility will work with University of Michigan
  • Center is third in company's $1 billion push on AI, robotics

Toyota Motor Corp. said it will collaborate with the University of Michigan on a research base near the school’s Ann Arbor campus to focus on autonomous vehicles, the third center under a $1 billion investment by the automaker.

Gill Pratt, chief executive officer of the Toyota Research Institute, announced the Michigan expansion in a speech Thursday at Nvidia Corp.’s annual technology conference in San Jose, California. During his remarks, he said “co-opetition” among automakers was key to saving the 1.2 million lives lost to traffic fatalities worldwide each year.

“The autonomous car field is incredibly hot,” Pratt said. “It’s important to remember that we don’t have to work alone. Co-opetition accelerates progress.”

Toyota hired Pratt, who was the U.S. military’s top robotics engineer, in September. The Toyota Research Institute also is creating centers in Palo Alto, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. The three facilities will work on artificial intelligence, materials science and robotics research.

The Ann Arbor hub is scheduled to open in June, with an eventual staff of 50 people, Toyota said. About 15 employees from the nearby Toyota Technical Centers, which have been doing autonomous-car research for more than a decade, will transfer to the new facility when it opens, the company said.

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