There comes a time in many a executive’s career, where they need to make a decision about the direction their corporation is set to take over the next few years. In the case of many automotive manufacturers at the moment, it’s how much effort should they put into developing driverless cars? Google is ahead of the game, but it still has a long way to go, so is it worth going all out now? Or would it be better to let others lay the ground work? Most companies seem to be of a mind that they should gradually push for it, introducing stopgap technologies before ever attempting to remove the driver entirely. However Toyota’s CTO Seigo Kuzumaki has now categorically said, “Toyota will not be developing a driverless car.”
This is actually quite a big deal, since Toyota was one of the earliest pioneers of some of the driverless car aids we’re seeing today. However, when Kuzumaki says that Toyota isn’t working on a fully driverless vehicle, that’s what he means. Toyota will instead be working on some of the driver aides we’ve come to expect from the other auto makers, with Toyota suggesting it wants to improve the relationship of the driver with the car and make the whole driving experience safer in the long run; and lowe and behold, they sound a bit like automated features.
One of the first being developed is Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), which uses radar to make sure that your car stays at a safe distance from the one in front. One of the main issues with motorway driving is that people aren’t ever quite sure how long it will take them to stop and at motorway speeds, that can become pretty dangerous and is a serious cause of pileups. However Toyota believes that with its dynamic cruise control, drivers will be able to have their car speed up and slow down to maintain a safe distance with the car in-front and hopefully help avoid those sorts of dangerous collisions.
This is going to be combined with Lane Trace Control, which uses a similar radar system, combined with a forward facing camera, to analyse lane markings. This information is then used to correct any shifts should the driver appear to drift towards another lane or the central reservations. This, combined with the DRCC, should potentially allow a driver to take their hands off the wheel on the motorway. It’s not advised, but it could potentially work.
The fanciest of Toyota’s upcoming technology that sounds far more automated than Kuzumaki gives it credit for, is the Predictive and Interactive Human Machine Interface, which essentially lets the car keep an eye on how attentive the driver is being. Using infrared cameras and touch sensors, Toyota’s HMI will detect the direction the driver is facing and where their eyes are, thereby figuring out whether they’re paying enough attention to the road. It will also detect if your’e holding the wheel correctly, if not, you’ll get a warning to remind you to drive safely.
Toyota expects the first vehicles using these technologies to become available by 2017.