The Toyota Research Institute is renting an area at Marina Airport to test self-driving cars. | local news

Self-driving cars will soon be on the southern tarmac at Marina Municipal Airport. On Dec. 15, the Marina City Council approved a conditional airport use permit for the Toyota Research Institute, the Los Altos-based Toyota subsidiary working on futuristic transportation such as artificial intelligence, robotics and self-driving cars.

The deal is an extension of a deal originally entered into between Marina and TRI in July 2020, which was scheduled to expire on December 31, 2020. “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, TRI is seeking a short-term agreement to autonomously conduct vehicle testing at a site near Los Altos, allowing staff conducting the testing to return home rather than having to stay overnight,” it says in the requirements document. “TRI anticipates that regular testing will be about four to five times a month and for a day or two each time.”

TRI won’t be the only high-tech airport tenant — Joby Aviation, the company that builds electric air taxis, also rents two hangars there. The startup has hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, including from Toyota’s venture capital arm.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that we can fly into the future,” said Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado. “It’s almost hard to believe, it’s so exciting.”

These permits are part of the airport’s efforts to increase revenue from the airport facility in a way that does not impact the use of air traffic. The city has also granted similar permits to auto racing clubs and go-kart groups in the past. TRI’s request was attractive as it represents recurring usage at a cost of $400 per day. The term of the new usage permit begins on January 1, 2021 and runs until June 2021.

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