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Toyota to Create Largest Connected Car Proving Ground in the World

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downtown ann arbor connected car proving ground

Ann Arbor will soon become a real-world proving ground for connected vehicles
Photo: Gavin Clabaugh

As technology advances every day, we get closer and closer to a time when all cars will be able to communicate, potentially eliminating things like traffic jams and collisions. But before that happens, automakers need to test out their technology to ensure its safety, and to iron out any glitches they come across. For Toyota, that means teaming up with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) to turn the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, into the world’s largest connected car proving ground.

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The proving ground will be known as the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment (AACVTE). Here, Toyota and UMTRI will be testing connected vehicle safety technology in real-world driving situations. The technology will be tested by everyday drivers in the area, and the testing will give Toyota and AACVTE an idea of what needs to be changed and improved before the technology and infrastructure is implemented in cities across the country.

“Ann Arbor is an international hub for connected vehicle technology and research, and it has everything to do with the community,” explained James R. Sayer, director, UMTRI. “Toyota is again demonstrating their commitment to the community by their investment in the recently announced TRI, and by encouraging employees to participate in cutting edge research.”

In total, 5,000 connected cars will be deployed in Ann Arbor. Drivers will have small data-collecting boxes installed in their trunks, as well as two small antennae on the rear windshield and roof. While testing, drivers are not limited to specific routes, and will be encouraged to go about their daily driving as they always have.

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By making the city of Ann Arbor a real-world testing ground, Toyota hopes to eliminate the issues that arise when testing this technology on a closed circuit test track—namely, the lack of connected vehicles.

Recently, Toyota announced that it would be open a third location in Ann Arbor for the new Toyota Research Institute company, in addition to those already planned in Palo Alto, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. The city is also home to the Toyota Technical Center, which oversees product development, engineering design, and research.