Filed under: Technology , Toyota Toyota executives say the company’s primary focus is on safety. At least for the time being, that means the company won’t pursue development of a driverless car. Speaking at the company’s advanced safety seminar in Ypsilanti, MI, Thursday morning, Seigo Kuzumaki, Toyota’s deputy chief safety technology officer, said that Toyota envisions a future driving environment that optimizes the best of both humans and computers, not choosing one over the other. “Toyota’s main objective is safety, so it will not be developing a driverless car.” – Seigo Kuzumaki “Toyota’s main objective is safety, so it will not be developing a driverless car,” he said. While other companies like, say, Google , anticipate a driverless car future , Kuzumaki and other Toyota executives said they’re not sold on the fact driverless cars will be a marketable product to a wide base of consumers. Even if motorists were eager to accept such a hands-off driving approach, they’re not sure the technology is ready. “At this moment, it is difficult to realize the driverless car safely,” said Ken Koibuchi, head of Toyota’s intelligent vehicle division. “To realize driverless car at this moment, we need a very rich infrastructure.” The company said it is involved in 34 different projects with 17 partners, some of which are examining development of vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. At least for now, they believe the future holds a collaborative driving experience between humans and computers, one that means drivers won’t necessarily be tending to other tasks in their vehicles anytime soon. “I think Toyota’s approach is opposite of that,” said Kristen Tabar, a vice president at Toyota’s Technical Center.
Filed under: Technology , Toyota An increasing number of people are starting to consider the potential downsides of a transition to autonomous cars. The FBI is already looking at them for the potential ill effects on law enforcement , and a scientist for Toyota is raising the possibility that driverless vehicles could actually be detrimental to the environment over the long term. Ken Laberteaux, who studies future transportation for Toyota , thinks that autonomous cars could lead to more pollution, not less, says Bloomberg . However, Laberteaux’s theory isn’t so much based purely on science as it is considering behavioral and historical trends. “US history shows that anytime you make driving easier, there seems to be this inexhaustible desire to live further from things,” said Laberteaux during a presentation at the Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco, CA, cited by Bloomberg . Laberteaux’s belief is that if commuters can make their drives easier, then they will be more willing to live farther away from the cities where they work. The end result would be more urban sprawl and increased pollution from the longer travel times. The hypothesis is completely the opposite of how we generally think about autonomous vehicles, with some experiments showing fuel economy improvements by as much as 20 percent . However, Laberteaux is looking beyond one-off observations and extrapolating further. With the law still figuring out how to get driverless cars on the road , we’re probably still decades from finding out what effects they will actually have on the world.
Filed under: Hybrid , Government/Legal , Technology , Videos , Hatchback , Toyota It’s election time and auto bailouts are not the only thing politicians are talking about. Down in Florida, one group has connected a candidate’s support for automated car testing to, well, nothing. And that makes him evil. The Committee to Protect Florida has taken Rep. Jeff Brandes (R-Fla.) to task for proving automated cars did not operate by “witchcraft” instead of working on other things in the St. Petersburg area. The commercial attempts to instill fear in the program and make it sound like these machines are running amok on Florida’s streets. (Note the sound effects at the end of the video.) The attack ad features a Toyota Prius running a stop sign and nearly hitting an older woman using a walker as the narrator goes on about how silly these newfangled machines might be. Then the commercial flashes the question, “Will Driverless cars REALLY stop for pedestrians?” Maybe. And if they don’t, everyone should blame Jeff Brandes.