Toyota’s research arm has identified nine new studies it will conduct over the next five years to improve automotive safety — including looking at what drivers are doing when their vehicles are operating under current low-level driver-assistance technologies and how consumers should be best trained to use them.
Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., has invested $85 million over the last decade to fund 260 research papers, completed largely in partnerships with university-based researchers. In November, it announced additional spending of $30 million over the next five years to continue and expand areas of research with dozens of universities working on different areas of automotive safety. The research is open-sourced and accessible, allowing other automakers around the world to benefit from its findings.
Among the newly funded research projects is a study being conducted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which will try to determine what other things drivers do in the vehicle while Level 2 driving-assistance features are engaged. The study will put people in vehicles equipped with driving technologies and observe their behavior through driver-monitoring systems.
Another study, conducted with researchers at the University of Iowa, will look at how consumers should be educated about changes to the safety functions of their vehicle when it undergoes an over-the-air update, and how those technology changes impact driving performance and behavior. A third advanced driver-assistance systems-related study, being planned with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, will look at how to train drivers on the proper uses of assistance systems, including when those individuals have an uninformed or misinformed understanding of what those systems can do.
Other research projects will study how to make new drivers better drivers, improving safety for nonmotorists interacting with automobiles, the risk factors around heat-stroke dangers for children and animals in unattended vehicles, and avoiding intersection collisions using driver-assistance technologies.
Previous research at Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center was used by the Japanese automaker to improve iterations of the standard safety and driver-assistance systems in both Toyota and Lexus vehicles, researchers said.
“In the future, as our industry shifts to new technology in the area of connectivity, automation, shared service and electrification, we must not overlook the importance of people,” said Shinichi Yasui, executive vice president at Toyota Motor North America Research and Development. He said Toyota’s open-sourced research and investment in it “is about making sure those projects have an impact beyond Toyota to provide the most possible benefit to the people of the world.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly characterized the work product of previous studies by the facility.