While the rest of the auto industry is working hard to bring autonomous vehicles to the roads, Toyota has expressed doubts over there ever being fully driverless cars.
Rather than aiming to build a fully self-driving car, Toyota has said that it will use automated technology in the future to increase the safety of the drivers.
"Toyota's main objective is safety, so they will not be developing a driverless car," said Sago Kuzumaki, chief technology officer for Toyota. However, he added, "A vehicle that does not contain any people door-to-door is very much in the future."
While Toyota is not working on driverless cars, it does expect to roll out a new safety system by "mid-decade." These safety features will allow cars to steer themselves enough to stay in the center of a lane. The system will also feature a camera that monitors the driver's eyes and ensures that both hands are on the wheel. If either of those things falter, the car will issue a warning.
Toyota is not the first company to offer lane-steering technology, but so far the vehicles that do offer it are largely luxury cars with price tags to match.
Toyota's system may also warn drivers if their lane is about to go away or if merging traffic is in danger of hitting their car. Toyota sees a gradual movement toward vehicles being more autonomous, with new automated features rolling out every few years. That technology right now is limited by availablility of mapping data nationwide, the safety executives said at a briefing near Ypsilanti, Mich. The briefing was in advance of the Sept. 7-11 World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems at the Cobo Center in Michigan.
"At this point, it is very difficult to realize driverless car safely," said Ken Koibuchi, Toyota's general manager for intelligent vehicle development. "We work from current, traditional automaker position. But, maybe, if the technology and social consensus increases, we can meet at some point." He was referring to Google's similar efforts to increase safety wth its driverless car efforts.
Along with 17 other companies, Toyota is working on the development of vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. This team of companies, being led by the University of Michigan, aims to increase safety and decrease things like traffic congestion, saying that it believes that the future holds a collaborative effort between humans and computers in vehicles.
"I think Toyota's approach is opposite of that," said Kristen Tabar, vice president at Toyota's Technical Center, later adding that while humans and computers both have weaknesses, they can augment each other to ensure safety. "There's limitations, right? We can only see so far. We can only hear so far. So, the vehicle itself has the capability to maybe see a little farther than us."
While fully autonomous vehicles may be achieved in the distant future, the technology needed to create them is not the only obstacle. The idea will likely be plagued with legal issues before driverless cars are able to hit the road.