• Toyota developing self-driving cars


    Toyota demonstrates in Tokyo its advanced driving support system called Automated Highway Driving Assist. The two vehicles communicate with each other, keeping their lane and following the preceding vehicle to maintain a safe distance. AFP PHOTO

    TOKYO: Toyota recently unveiled cars featuring an auto pilot system that will swerve to avoid collisions and also keep to the middle of the road, all without drivers touching the wheel. The cars using this self-driving technology could be available on the market in just a few years’ time.

    “These advanced driving support technologies prevent human errors, reduce driving stress and help drivers avert accidents, which has a big potential to reduce the number of traffic deaths,” Toyota Managing Director Moritaka Yoshida said at a presentation in Tokyo.

    Leading carmakers and technology firms, including Toyota, rival Nissan and Internet giant Google, have been working on self-driving and assisted-driving technology for years.

    Toyota, the world’s biggest carmaker, said that while drivers would still need to be alert and take part in the driving process, it essentially lets them put the vehicle on auto-pilot, leaving most of the work to the computer system. Called Automated Highway Driving Assist (AHDA), the system lets vehicles communicate wirelessly to avoid running into each other while keeping the car in the middle of the road lane—no matter how many twists and turns lie ahead.

    “Cars with these technologies recognize the accelerating or slowing speed of those ahead, which also helps avoid traffic jams,” said project manager Mitsuhisa Shida. “They can wirelessly exchange data once every 0.1 seconds.”

    The company plans to install AHDA in its commercial models over the next few years.

    Toyota has already introduced the pre-collision braking assist system in its Lexus luxury sedan and plans to install it in other models by 2015, with the other technologies to follow.

    Many cars already have systems that give drivers a panoramic view to keep watch for nearby objects while parking themselves. The latest collision-avoidance system has doubled the detection time of oncoming objects to four seconds from a previous two seconds, Toyota said.

    It added that such advances would be especially helpful for older people.

    Japan’s society is rapidly aging with over-65s already making up around a quarter of the 128 million-strong population.



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