TOKYO — Mass-market Toyota is about to get a fresh infusion of advanced active safety technology from its premium marque sister, Lexus.
The systems will enable Toyota-brand vehicles to automatically steer around pedestrians, slow around corners and even pull over by themselves when the driver is incapacitated.
Another will override drivers if they mix up the brake and gas pedals.
Toyota vehicles will start getting the new technologies this summer in Japan. The intent is to deploy them to other global markets, but it is uncertain when they might arrive in the United States. Different U.S. regulations and driving conditions mean it may take longer to tailor the technology for overseas.
Toyota Motor Corp. announced the plan this month at a safety briefing with Seigo Kuzumaki, the manufacturer's fellow for advanced r&d and engineering and an automated-driving expert.
The automaker is migrating Lexus active safety technologies to Toyota as part of the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver-assist systems. The idea is to introduce cutting-edge technologies in the upmarket premium brand, where their costs can better be absorbed, and then fan them out to volume models once costs come down.
Toyota Safety Sense launched in 2015 and received a second-generation upgrade in 2018 with such advanced capabilities as nighttime pre-crash braking for pedestrians, pre-crash braking for bicyclists, lane-tracing assist and road-sign recognition.
The Lexus version, called Lexus Safety System +A, has three functions that will now migrate to Toyota: An emergency steering assist will help automatically steer a car around a pedestrian, and a second function will automatically reduce a car's speed while going around curves using radar cruise control. The latter helps the vehicle keep its lane.
Also on tap for Toyota, previously offered on Lexus, is a driver emergency-stop-assist system. That technology automatically slows a vehicle to a stop and calls for help when it detects a problem with the driver, such as sudden unconsciousness or other health issues.
Separately, Toyota also said it will deploy a recently developed system that suppresses unintended acceleration when the driver mistakenly punches the accelerator. The Japan-market debut of that system comes as Toyota and other Japanese carmakers address a surge in accidents among elderly drivers in Japan, which is experiencing a rapidly aging populace.
The number of fatal accidents involving drivers age 75 or older in Japan more than doubled from 381 deaths in 2007 to 791 in 2019, Toyota said. And mistaking the accelerator for the brake was cited as a leading cause.
"We thought something needed to be done," Kuzumaki said. "This will have a big impact."
Toyota's countermeasure uses software to suppress acceleration when the onboard computer deems it to likely be the result of a misapplied pedal. It works at speeds up to 30 km/h (19 mph).
The technology, which Toyota calls an acceleration suppression function, uses the existing hardware of the brand's Toyota Safety Sense system and relies on new software to judge when drivers hit the gas instead of the brake.
The system relies on data collected through vehicle DCMs, or data communication modules. Toyota has installed DCMs in 1.8 million vehicles on Japanese roads since 2002.
The DCMs relay data about such vehicle operations as acceleration position, braking activity and turn-signal use. The data becomes the basis for algorithms that help guard against unintended acceleration.
Acceleration suppression comes on the heels of two other new technologies that Toyota is adding to its lineup with the redesigned Yaris small car arriving this year. They include a pre-crash emergency braking system that works in intersections, and an automatic parking system that self-parks the Yaris by controlling the steering, brake and accelerator. A driver only needs to put the car in reverse, and the system does the rest.