To Google, Apple, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz and any other automaker that plans to be in the autonomous car market ...Toyota wants in. Or better yet, it's backing its way in.
On Tuesday, Toyota announced that it's working on its own self-driving car, one that it plans to hit roads around 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal. While it's not surprising that Toyota is joining some Silicon Valley rivals by jumping into the future-friendly space, what might alarm car enthusiasts is the claim the automaker made that it has been researching and developing autonomous driving technology "since the 1990s."
Working with the technology longer than some of its competitors might give Toyota an edge.
"We have spent a long time to develop the technology. We have advantages and we want to maintain them as we push forward," Moritaka Yoshida (pictured below), Toyota's chief safety executive, told the press Tuesday, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Specifically, Toyota used the term "automated driving" to describe the new system that it's working on.
"We were afraid that by using the term 'automated driving,' people would misunderstand that humans are not involved at all," Masahiro Iwasaki, an engineer working with the technology, told the Journal.
As part of its testing, Toyota already had a prototype autonomous vehicle — a Lexus GS-based prototype of its luxury brand — which successfully drove on the highway, switched lanes and safely exited in Tokyo.
Like Google's car, Toyota's self-driving vehicle has sensors and cameras to collect data and detect its surroundings. Iwasaki insists the prototype is meant to help drivers, not replace them. The cost of the sensors will have to be lowered for Toyota to introduce its autonomous cars as a mass-market vehicle.