Toyota pursues 'co-pilot' car over self-driving vehicle system
LAS VEGAS (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. said autonomous safety technologies it’s developing are intended to create a virtual “co-pilot” in vehicles to help drivers avoid accidents rather than self-driving cars and trucks.
The company today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas unveiled research it’s doing in Japan where a modified Lexus LS sedan with advanced safety equipment is being tested. The car’s sensors and automated systems let it observe, process and respond to its surroundings, Toyota said in a statement.
“For Toyota and Lexus, an autonomous vehicle does not translate to a driverless vehicle, but rather a car equipped with an intelligent, always-attentive co-pilot whose skills contribute to safer driving,” Mark Templin, head of U.S. sales for Lexus, said today at a show presentation. “The driver must be fully engaged.”
Toyota and competitors already offer cars with features including cruise control that monitors and maintains a safe distance from vehicles ahead, sensors to warn of swerving out of a lane and automated braking triggered when a vehicle doesn’t slow enough to avoid impact. Improvements in such areas, rather than cars that fully drive themselves, are Toyota’s near-term priority. Toyota is doing the research at at the Higashi-Fuji technical center in Japan.
Google Inc. has been testing a self-driving Prius in California for years, and the U.S. Defense Department has sponsored research in that area for more than a decade. Toyota has no plans for now to sell a self-driving vehicle, Jim Pisz, the carmaker’s corporate manager for North American business strategy, said in an interview.
Toyota said its test vehicle is a “platform” to develop systems to aid driver awareness of traffic conditions enabling motorists to make better decisions and improve driving skills. The company isn’t currently seeking authorization to operate its autonomous car on U.S. roads, Pisz said.
Nevada issued a license to Volkswagen AG’s Audi unit allowing the testing of self-driving vehicles on that state’s roads, according to an Audi statement.