Toyota is developing a special copilot it calls the "Guardian Angel," which aims to help human drivers by taking over to prevent a crash.
Self-driving cars are increasingly gaining momentum and fully autonomous vehicles continue to stir mixed reactions. While some commend the advancements of technology and the great potential of AI and robotics, others worry that machines are increasingly taking over and will soon deem the human race useless.
Toyota seems to have a solution in mind to ease such woes. Its Guardian Angel would not replace the driver, but would serve as a skilled copilot ready to take over should the driver be in trouble.
As Tech Times previously reported, Toyota is investing in a new research facility in Ann Arbor, at the University of Michigan, and this Guardian Angel copilot will be part of that effort.
"In the same way that antilock braking and emergency braking work, there is a virtual driver that is trying to make sure you don't have an accident by temporarily taking control from you," says Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), as cited by MIT Technology Review.
As a reminder, Toyota created TRI last year, betting $1 billion in funding for researching artificial intelligence, automated driving and robotics.
The intelligent copilot feature is definitely intriguing, but not entirely new, as we've had driver assistance for a good while now. Anti-lock braking or traction control, for instance, are such aids that have been adjusting the driver's behavior for decades. Future cars, meanwhile, will have automatic braking in case of emergency. Automatic braking will become the standard by 2022.
Toyota's Guardian Angel, however, aims to take it to the next level. It would not just brake automatically, but it would also prompt the car to accelerate, swerve or not swerve, depending on the tricky situation it's in.
It might sound less ambitious than other endeavors involving fully autonomous vehicles, but it sounds more realistic and achievable in the near future. Fully self-driving cars have come a long way, but they still have plenty of hurdles to overcome and it will take a while before they actually hit the commercial state.
Moreover, the world's infrastructure is not designed for AI drivers, but for human ones. To achieve its full potential, autonomous driving technology would need a new infrastructure with special speed limits, cross walks, intersections and such, which is far from an easy task.
Toyota's Guardian Angel could pave the way to fully autonomous driving technology, easing the transition.