Chuck Gulash, the engineer who heads Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC), was asked this week about the connection between the Center, which was formed in January, and the furor over unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. The CSRC, he said, is a direct result of the promise Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda made to Congress and the American people.
The CSRC initiative is operating on an initial funding budget of $50 million over five years. As its name implies, it’s engaged in collaborative research with universities and research institutions for development, testing and implementation of new automotive safety innovations.
The research is focused on (1) reducing driver distraction and (2) protecting vulnerable populations including children, teens, seniors, and pedestrians. Research projects range from driver education and collision mitigation to accident reconstruction and enhanced crash data analysis. During a two-day safety seminar Toyota engineers showed journalists how they test and analyze the impact of a vehicle striking a six-year-old child.
The CSRC has already established partnerships with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). At the safety seminar, Gulash announced ten new research initiatives (for a total of 13) and six new partnerships. The CSRC will collaborate with the MIT AgeLab, The Transportation Active Safety Institute (TASI) at Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Virginia Tech, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Washtenaw Area Transportation Study, and Wayne State University School of Medicine.
Gulash says the CSRC intends to publish as much of the research from its partnerships as possible to make it available to federal agencies, the industry and academia. “This model of sharing the CSRC’s Toyota talent, technology, and data with a broad range of institutions, represents a fundamental change for Toyota, moving away from a traditional focus on proprietary research towards more openly sharing innovations that benefit the automotive industry and society as a whole.”