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Toyota’s autonomous driving program returns as new test track announced

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See that oval? That's where Toyota will test out autonomous driving "edge cases."
See that oval? That’s where Toyota will test out autonomous driving “edge cases.”

Image: toyota research institute

After a woman was struck and killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona earlier this year, Toyota paused its autonomous driving program.

Now, more than a month later, the car company is resuming its testing in California and Michigan within the next few weeks, a company spokesperson said — and they’re rolling out brand new facilities.

As its vehicles ease back onto the roads, Toyota is building a massive autonomous driving test facility in Michigan. The closed-course track was announced Thursday and is set to open in October, located in Ottawa Lake at the Michigan Technical Resource Park.

The 60-acre track will give Toyota a space to test “edge cases,” or situations too dangerous to test on public roads. The research facility will simulate and construct congested city environments, slick roads, and highways with high-speed entrance and exit ramps — everything needed for a self-driving proving ground.

Even if Toyota is moving forward with its autonomous program, Uber is still paused, as federal investigators assess how 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was fatally hit by an autonomous vehicle while crossing a road. 

“Our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones. Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can,” an Uber spokesperson said Thursday.

Back in March, a Toyota spokesperson told Bloomberg, that the Uber fatality directly affected its testing. “Because we feel the incident may have an emotional effect on our test drivers, we have decided to temporarily pause our [testing program].”

Now, Toyota’s restarted its engines — with Uber’s nightmare in the rearview mirror. 

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