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Toyota Plans Safety Technology but Not Self-Driving Cars

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Toyota logoJust days after GM announced it is working on adding distracted driving detection technology to its cars (as this blog reported), Toyota said on Thursday it is at work on the same thing, as AP Autos writer Tom Krisher writes in a News Tribune article.

By “mid-decade” the automaker expects to have technology that will let cars steer themselves in the center of a lane and to install cameras that monitor a driver’s eyes and hands to detect distracted activity, Krisher writes. The technology will warn the driver when he or she is not looking at the road or not holding the steering wheel.

Toyota might eventually feature a system that can warn a driver if a freeway lane is disappearing or if merging traffic could hit the car, Krisher writes. That technology, currently in development, is limited by nationwide mapping data, an executive said in a safety briefing near Ypsilanti, Mich. The company vows to have collision prevention technology in all of its U.S. cars by 2017, Krisher writes.

Despite the new safety features, Toyota has no plans to work on a totally self-driving vehicle, Pete Bigelow writes for Autoblog. He quotes Seigo Kuzumaki, Toyota’s deputy chief safety technology officer, as saying that “Toyota envisions a future driving environment that optimizes the best of both humans and computers, not choosing one over the other.”

Toyota will not develop a driverless car because “Toyota’s main objective is safety,” Kuzumaki said. He and other Toyota executive do not believe that autonomous cars would be marketable to a large number of consumers, Bigelow writes. And Toyota executives believe that even if car buyers would like self-driving cars, it will take a lot of work and money to get the roads in the right shape to support them, Bigelow writes.

He quotes one of the executives:

‘At this moment, it is difficult to realize the driverless car safely,’ said Ken Koibuchi, head of Toyota’s intelligent vehicle division. ‘To realize driverless car at this moment, we need a very rich infrastructure.’

The Japanese automaker said it is working on 34 projects with 17 partners, Bigelow writes, including some that would involve vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. Kristen Tabar, a vice president at Toyota’s Technical Center, said that because both humans and computers have weaknesses, requiring the active participation of both can help increase safety, Bigelow writes. Among those automakers who have been working on self-driving cars are Google, Nissan, Volvo, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz, as this blog has noted.


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