$15M continues U-M partnership with Toyota Research Institute


Building on a successful five-year collaboration with University of Michigan faculty, the Toyota Research Institute will renew its research partnership with U-M for an additional five years, with projects funded up to $3M per year, TRI announced Jan. 26.

The second phase of TRI’s university research program will include the initial three universities — U-M, Stanford and MIT — and expand the program to an additional 13 universities.

Since the partnership launched in 2016, more than 50 U-M faculty members have participated in 38 research projects focusing on artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous driving. The projects resulted in 16 patents and 126 publications. Twenty-three projects are still ongoing.

“The partnership with TRI has allowed our faculty and students to pursue bold ideas that inform the cutting edge in automated vehicles while working with a top global company. It really doesn’t get any better,” said Eric Michielssen, associate dean for research at the College of Engineering and the Louise Ganiard Johnson Professor of Engineering.

During the first five years of the U-M TRI partnership, the variety of research projects has included developing soft robots to provide companionship for the elderly, analyzing bicycle and car interaction data to design self-driving algorithms that safely interact with both, award-winning research on developing reliable control systems for lane keeping and adaptive cruise control, and enabling computers to create fully representational 3-D visuals for autonomous scenarios.

“Our first five-year program pushed the boundaries of exploratory research across multiple fields, generating 69 patent applications and nearly 650 papers,” said Eric Krotkov, TRI chief science officer, who leads the university research program. “Our next five years are about pushing even further and doing so with a broader, more diverse set of stakeholders.

“To get to the best ideas, collaboration is critical. Our aim is to build a pipeline of new ideas from different perspectives and underrepresented voices that share our vision of using AI for human amplification and societal good.”

Research projects in the next phase of the partnership will focus on advancing many of the same research areas: automated driving, robotics and machine-assisted cognition. U-M researchers lead six of the 35 new projects in the expanded TRI university program.

“Collaboration is essential if we want to transform the future of mobility,” said Rebecca Cunningham, U-M vice president for research and William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine. “In partnering with the Toyota Research Institute, innovative researchers across the University of Michigan will continue to address important challenges that impact our communities — from driverless vehicle technology to artificial intelligence.”

The partnership builds on Toyota’s strong and active presence in the Ann Arbor community. The company’s two offices, the Toyota Technical Center and the Toyota Research Institute, have long worked with U-M on connected vehicles and safety research. Toyota established a TRI facility in Ann Arbor in 2016 as part of a $1 billion investment in research in artificial intelligence and robotics to support automated driving, robotics, and accelerated materials design and discovery.

Toyota also is a founding partner of Mcity, U-M’s facility for developing connected and automated vehicle technology, and invests in creative programs that serve mobility needs in a variety of forms, such as offering creative internships for students in Wolverine Pathways.


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