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Toyota ups its autonomy research budget to $22 billion

by Byron Hurd

Toyota will use its dominating profitability to keep relevant.

In its earnings announcement Wednesday, Toyota revealed that it plans to invest more than $22 billion into autonomous vehicle development this year in an attempt to keep pace with the likes of Waymo and Apple in what company President Akio Toyoda called "uncharted territory."

Toyoda warned that "[t]echnology companies are using their abundant resources to make investments at speeds several times faster than [Toyota]," according to the Nikkei news service. This year's investment is up 30% over 2017's, the news service says, and Toyota hopes it will be enough to keep the company relevant in what Toyoda described as "uncharted territory."

Some of Toyota's investments are already coming to fruition. The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) announced in early May that it will open an autonomous vehicle testing center at the company's Michigan Technical Resource Park (MITRP) in Ottawa Lake, Michigan, in October.

In the near term, the facility will be used for development of Toyota Guardian--the company's autonomous driving suite and potential future competitor to Tesla's Autopilot.The facility will be constructed inside the existing test oval at MITRP and will replicate environments such as dense urban areas, highway interchanges and low-friction driving surfaces.

"By constructing a course for ourselves, we can design it around our unique testing needs and rapidly advance capabilities, especially with Toyota Guardian automated vehicle mode," said Ryan Eustice, TRI senior vice president of automated driving, in last week's announcement.

"This new site will give us the flexibility to customize driving scenarios that will push the limits of our technology and move us closer to conceiving a human-driven vehicle that is incapable of causing a crash."