- Toyota is tired of seeing other carmakers get publicity for innovative, automated safety system development.
- The Japanese automaker will begin introducing new active safety systems of its own by mid-decade.
- They will go into some of Toyota's less expensive models as well as the high-end cars and trucks that usually receive new technologies first.
TOKYO — Anxious to show that it is keeping up with the competition, Toyota Motor Corp. announced a suite of upgraded active safety systems that will start hitting markets as early as 2015 and ultimately be applied to a broad swath of the company's models.
The systems, demonstrated at an event held in Tokyo this week, are aimed at improving traffic and pedestrian safety by relieving drivers of often-tedious chores in some highway traffic situations and helping them to avoid vehicular and pedestrian collisions.
One system even helps average drivers make it through curves and twisty roads with the smooth lines of a professional race driver.
Among the systems Toyota executives and engineers showed off is an improved version of the company's pedestrian collision avoidance system. The old system used a forward-looking camera to identify a pedestrian in the roadway about 2 seconds before collision and attempted to automatically brake the car to a stop. If stopping was not possible, the system would at least slow the car significantly to minimize the impact.
The new pedestrian collision avoidance system adds steering control to the package, using computer guidance and electric servo-motors to automatically steer the car away from the pedestrian. One limitation not yet overcome is that, because automated systems can't make decisions such as whether it is better to collide with a car in the adjacent lane than to hit a pedestrian, the system keeps the car in its own lane, minimizing the distance it can swerve to avoid a pedestrian.
Also on tap for fairly widespread distribution throughout the Toyota and Lexus lineups in coming years are:
- Front and rear cameras, with expanded 180-degree fields of vision, that can identify and warn of "cross traffic" from pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and other cars that a driver might not see in her peripheral vision. This is especially useful when pulling out of or backing out of parking spaces, garages and other tight spaces.
- A parking assistance system that automatically backs the car into parking spaces, once the driver identifies the space to be used and positions the car accordingly. The driver applies braking during the maneuver but doesn't need to touch the steering wheel.
Farther away from mass market introduction is a package Toyota calls Automated Highway Driving Assist. It relies on car-to-car communications systems that all automakers would have to adopt if it is to be effective.
Using short-range radio signals, properly equipped cars could instantaneously and continuously exchange information such as speed, braking activity and rates of acceleration and deceleration. Other systems on Toyota's cars include "cooperative" adaptive cruise control and "lane trace" control.
Cooperative cruise control enables properly equipped cars to read one another's acceleration, deceleration and braking information and to follow suit simultaneously in order to maintain the intervals between cars. This, Toyota engineers say, would eliminate the car-to-car lag times that often result in chain-reaction slowing down and, ultimately, traffic jams.
Toyota's "lane trace" is an improvement on lane keeping systems that read lane markers and keep cars centered between them. On curves, lane trace computes and then self-steers — and brakes or accelerates the car, as needed — along the best line through the curve to minimize body roll and provide a smooth ride. It works on multiple curves as well as on single curves, and on tight, diminishing-radius curves as well as on gentler, more open bends in the road.
Edmunds says: It's nice to see the world's second-largest automaker renewing efforts to stay competitive in the active safety arena and to bringing these complex and often expensive systems into more mainstream models in its lineup.