More Than 100 Compete in Prius Challenge at Sonoma Raceway
The Prius may be the icon of fuel efficiency, but that usually means you won’t find many of them at a race track. Toyota turned the tables on that recently with its Prius Challenge, held at Sonoma Raceway in northern California, where more than 100 Prius drivers competed to see who could deliver the bet mpg.
The event was sponsored by the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), a research subsidiary of Toyota Motor North America. Teams had to drive nine laps at the raceway and won trophies for the following achievements:
- Highest overall MPG
- Best use of machine learning
- Highest single lap MPG
- Best race strategy.
The winner, Team EcoFlow, took home the trophy by hitting 85 mpg over nine laps. Participants also had access to a driving similar built by Open Source Robotics Foundation and during the race used a proprietary coaching app to help evaluate and adjust their driving performance in real time.
Toyota Onramp Event
The Prius Challenge was part of an annual event sponsored by TRI, Toyota Onramp 2017, which included an executive roundtable discussion with media, the first public reveal of a TRI-developed research vehicle, and a variety of driving experiences for participants.
The competition also featured a special guest, Toyota Chairman of the Board Takeshi Uchiyamada. Chairman Uchiyamada is considered the father of the Prius as he was the chief engineer of the first generation Prius.
“TRI’s mission is to improve the quality of life by making use of AI technology. AI can not only improve safety and enhance mobility, but it can also help reduce traffic and time behind the wheel while enhancing fuel efficiency, which is a major theme of Prius Challenge,” said Dr. Gill Pratt, TRI CEO.
The roundtable featured Chairman Uchiyamada, Dr. Gill Pratt, Dr. James Kuffner, CTO; Dr. Ryan Eustice, Vice President of Autonomous Driving; Mr. Chris Ballinger, CFO and Director of Mobility Services. Earlier in the day, TRI displayed its new advanced safety research vehicle for the first time. The all-new test mule is the next step in Toyota’s 12 years of autonomous technology research and development in the United States, and will be used to explore a full range of autonomous driving capabilities. Participants also had the chance to join a professional driver for a high-speed lap around the track in a Lexus high performance vehicle. The Toyota i-Road, a three-wheel electric concept vehicle, was brought to the Onramp event again to immerse participants fully into its unique driving experiences. Toyota put together a video of the event.
TRI, which was established in 2015, aims to strengthen Toyota’s research structure and has four initial mandates:
- enhance the safety of automobiles,
- increase access to cars to those who otherwise cannot drive,
- translate Toyota’s expertise in creating products for outdoor mobility into products for indoor mobility, and
- accelerate scientific discovery by applying techniques from artificial intelligence and machine learning.
TRI plans to employ approximately 250 employees and is based in the United States, with offices in Stanford Research Park in Palo Alto, CA (TRI-PAL), in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts (TRI-CAM), and in Ann Arbor, Michigan, near the University of Michigan campus (TRI-ANN).
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