YPSILANTI (WWJ) – As the auto industry looks to bring some automated driving to the roads in the next few years, don’t get the idea that you can just check out, and leave the driving to your car.
“Toyota’s main objective is safety, so they will not be developing a driverless car,” said Sago Kuzumaki, Toyota’s Chief Technology Officer. “A vehicle that does not contain any people door-to-door is very much in the future.”
In advance of next week’s World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems at Cobo Center, Toyota invited journalists to a two day-session at a hotel in Ypsilanti, MI, where they could view and experience some of the company’s latest safety technology, and hear from experts in the field.
While Google envisions cars taking over the driving, making everybody in the car a passenger, Toyota doesn’t see the driver being taken out of the equation for the foreseeable future.
“At this point, it is very difficult to realize driverless car safely,” said Ken Koibuchi, general manager for intelligent vehicle development for Toyota.
While Toyota and Google both want to reduce crashes and fatalities, Koibuchi says they are starting from different points.
“They work from vision driven development,” he said. “We work from current, traditional automaker position. But, maybe, if the technology and social consensus increases, we can meet at some point.”
Automation of vehicles will be a gradual process, says Kristin Tabar, Toyota vice president for technical and administrative planning. It could start with systems that automatically brake for pedestrians, or to prevent collisions, then take over the driving duties on open freeways, or in traffic jams.
Just as important as perfecting systems to drive the car, is perfecting systems that monitor drivers and make sure they are engaged, and let drivers know ahead of time that they may soon have to regain control of the car.
It’s, essentially, a partnership between driver and car, says Taber, who adds there are still some things a human can do better than a computer, like process information.
“We have that ability visually, audibly, sirens, all the different inputs and to process that through our experience, to make the best judgment moving forward.”
But, says Taber, computers don’t tire, like humans do, and have a few advantages on humans.
“There’s limitations, right? We can only see so far. We can only hear so far. So, the vehicle itself has the capability to maybe see a little farther than us.”
Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center near Ann Arbor has been tasked with learning more about automated driving, and how human beings interact with vehicles.
Toyota’s Ken Koibuchi says it will help build on advancements already made in the development of automated driving systems.
“This is a technology currently getting straight A’s in high school. But, to deliver on the expectations of its parents, it will need to graduate cum laude from a major university.”