TOKYO -- Imagine trying to merge onto a particularly tricky stretch of expressway where visibility is next to zero. You can't see behind you because of buildings or trees, but suddenly an alarm goes off warning that another car is approaching fast from your left. Accident averted.
Toyota Motor Corp. is rolling out an onboard safety system that does just that. It will be offered first in a car for Japan that Toyota didn't identify but said would arrive "soon."
The technology alerts drivers in real time to unseen hazards such as tight curves, merging traffic or sudden vehicle backups.
Onboard systems, such as sonar, already alert drivers to immediate hazards. This new system extends the zone being monitored because it relies on a network of roadside beacons that constantly monitor traffic conditions and transmit radio updates to a car's navigation system.
The technology, which uses a dedicated short-range communications unit, interacts with about 3,000 beacons installed on highway signs and lampposts around Japan's major cities.
The network is maintained by the national and local governments. Development began in 2005. Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism plans to expand it nationwide by 2011.
Toyota has no plans to offer the feature in the United States. But the automaker is participating in several U.S. trials, including the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration system being developed by carmakers, suppliers and government agencies.