If the world’s largest automaker gets its way, by the end of this decade, we can expect advanced active safety and semi-automated driving features to become as familiar as anti-lock brakes and stability control have in the past 10 years.
During an advanced safety systems seminar near Toyota’s North American technical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the automaker challenged its competitors when it committed to offering advanced active safety systems across its lineup by 2017. Toyota also increased its commitment to advanced safety R&D by extending the initial 5-year mandate of the Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) from 2016 through 2021 and adding $35 million in new funding.
At the same event, Simon Nagata, senior vice president of the Toyota Technical Center, announced an expansion of the scope of the CSRC, which was launched by company president Akio Toyoda in 2011. Nagata described the program as unique in the industry because “all findings are openly shared in order to benefit people everywhere.”
CSRC research initially focused on three areas, driver distraction, active safety, and helping to protect the most vulnerable traffic populations, including children, teens, and seniors. Automated and connected vehicle technologies are now part of the CSRC scope of work. To date, CSRC has initiated or completed 34 projects with 17 universities and research hospitals.
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Ford has drawn attention in recent years for offering a full suite of driver assist capabilities, including active park assist, blind spot information, lane departure warning and prevention, and adaptive cruise control on the high-volume Fusion midsize sedan. Some of these features are even available on the smaller Focus and Escape. Other manufacturers, including Nissan, Honda, and even Hyundai, have since added some of these features to mainstream products. Toyota, on the other hand, has largely restricted these technologies to its premium Lexus brand.
“Many of these capabilities will be added to Toyota brand vehicles starting in 2015 and with the goal of becoming the first full-line manufacturer to offer these technologies across the entire lineup by 2017,” said Bill Fay, Toyota group vice president and general manager. Fay didn’t provide details about exactly which vehicles will get what features. However, the updated 2015 Camry sedan, announced in April at the New York Auto Show, will offer radar-based adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, lane departure alert, and a pre-collision system.
Toyota’s increased emphasis on active safety and automated driving is likely to inspire both the competition and regulators who may well see this as an opportunity to begin mandating the technologies that are building blocks for autonomous vehicles, just as they did previously with stability control and rear cameras. And it will provoke a wider discussion of how we incorporate automated vehicles into the transportation ecosystem.
Tags: Automotive Industry, Autonomous Vehicles, Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Smart Transportation Program
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