Self driving Toyota
John Goreham's picture

Toyota announces self-driving cars by 2016 and new pre-collision system

Toyota had been quiet about its self driving car programs. Apparently, the company was just waiting to judge the public's interest and will be ready to match competitor's already announced plans soon.

Toyota announced today that it has an autonomous driving system for its existing cars and that it will launch highway autonomous driving systems by around 2016. In addition, the company is planning to install a pre-collision system that not only brakes the car, but can also steer around pedestrians.

Toyota has not been at the forefront of autonomous driving systems as of late. Cadillac was the first to announce a system that could use cruise control, lane keeping and other driver aids to steer the car and Torque News reported that story six months ago. BMW already has an autonomous driving system in the US market on the current X5 which drives the car in traffic.

We can see not real difference between Toyota’s announced PCS system and that which Nissan announced almost exactly one year ago. It seems that Toyota has been developing these systems and waiting to see what consumers want from the automakers. Now that interest appears to have been piqued, the Toyota systems are being unveiled.

In today’s announcement Toyota said their existing autonomously driving vehicle is “based on the Lexus LS, is being used in research at the Toyota Research Institute of North America in Saline, Michigan, and is capable of autonomous driving.” The announcement went on to explain that the vehicle is similar to, or the same as the vehicle that the company displayed at a recent symposium.

The new pre-collision system may be the most important part of this announcement. The company recently was bashed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS said the existing Toyota system on the Prius v wagon is not even worth rating and does not meet the NHTSA standards for such a system. Lawyers pounced on that comment and it is forming the basis for a new class action suit over the issue. Subaru, Volvo, and other companies have system that rate very highly and are applauded by the IIHS. Toyota needs to catch up fast.

An interesting twist on all of these autonomous driving systems is that most people assume the first, best, and complete list of autonomous driving systems will come from the automakers themselves. However, Google has been testing and developing autonomously driving cars for years and the company has demonstrated its existing system already. It is fitted to a Toyota Prius. In our report 18 months ago we predicted that helping the elderly would be the third of 5 ways that self-driving cars could benefit society. In today's announcement Toyota said its self-driving car program would " be used to develop technologies that support senior drivers with recognition, decision-making and vehicle operation, with the aim of achieving a mobility society where they can lead fuller lives."

Photo courtesy of Toyota Media site.

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