ANN ARBOR, MI - Toyota announced it is launching an advanced safety research center that will collaborate with leading North American universities, hospitals, research institutions, federal agencies and other organizations on projects aimed at reducing the number of traffic fatalities and injuries on America's roads.
Toyota's new Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) will be based at the Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Ann Arbor, Mich., and will involve Toyota researchers and engineers from North America and Japan. The company estimates that it will commit approximately $50 million over the next five years to fund CSRC.
The collaborative research will pursue integrated ways to enhance safety, involving the vehicle, driver and traffic environment, Toyota said. Initial areas of focus will include reducing the risk of driver distraction and helping to protect the most vulnerable traffic populations, including children, teens and seniors. These populations account for approximately 30 percent of U.S. traffic fatalities.
In addition, CSRC will conduct in-depth analyses of available accident and human behavior data to support efforts to evaluate and speed deployment of active safety systems.
"Our investment will support collaborative research aiming to reduce driver distraction and increase the safety of vehicles, drivers, passengers and pedestrians," said Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda.
Chuck Gulash, a senior executive engineer at the Toyota Technical Center, will serve as director of CSRC. He will report to Shigeki Terashi, who is a managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp. and the president of TTC.
"We have a long history of working closely with North American partners to achieve our safety objectives, and our new collaborative research initiative will build on this tradition," Gulash said. "We intend to publish as much of the research as possible so that it is available to federal agencies, the industry and academia."
Toyota is supporting the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) on a multi-disciplinary project to assess the potential benefits of advanced safety systems, combining their expertise in driver behavior, crash data analysis and driver modeling.
"We at the U-M Transportation Research Institute share Toyota's enthusiasm for maximizing the societal benefits from leading-edge safety research, and will leverage this generous support with the full range of our research laboratories and databases," said UMTRI Director Peter Sweatman.
Toyota's collaboration with Virginia Tech involves research into the effectiveness of an electronic coaching and monitoring system for newly licensed teenage drivers to help reduce unsafe driving behaviors. Toyota will have an active role in guiding this "Driver Coach" project alongside partners including the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health.
"Given that newly licensed teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than their adult counterparts, Toyota's support of our Driver Coach project is of utmost importance," said Dr. Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, developer of the Driver Coach system. "Based on our previous teen driving research, we can now determine, with actual video, the kinds of behaviors teens engage in while driving. The next step is to educate the teens and their parents with feedback about unsafe, and safe, driving behaviors with the ultimate goal of helping teens become better drivers."
Toyota will join the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute in a pilot study to create America's first publicly available national crash surveillance system focused on child vehicle occupants. Such a system will be used to monitor trends in child passenger safety, assess the performance of new safety technologies for children and serve as a national resource to assist researchers, industry and policy-makers to set the agenda for child passenger safety in the U.S.
Toyota Technical Center (TTC), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing, North America, is the research and development arm of Toyota in North America. TTC is responsible for engineering design, vehicle development, safety and performance evaluation, regulatory affairs and advanced technical research in North America for Toyota and Lexus vehicles assembled or sold here.