Toyota has announced a new safety initiative that seeks to investigate how autonomous vehicles will integrate with existing traffic systems, looking at areas like object detection, and social interaction with other road users.
The five-year program will be run in collaboration with six learning institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at a cost of US$35 million (A$46 million) at Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Centre (CSRC) which first opened in 2014.
CSRC director, Chuck Gulash, said, "These highly advanced systems are radically reshaping the transportation landscape, building a relationship between drivers, occupants and vehicles as teammates working together safely and conveniently."
The study aims to ease the transition to autonomous technologies as future mobility moves away from human drivers and towards self-capable systems.The research outcome is targeted at personalising crash protection through pre-crash sensors and better integration of active and passive safety features.
Toyota has also signalled an interest in integrated health monitoring for vehicle occupants similar to the systems shown by Mercedes-Benz at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show to detect if the driver is about to have a serious medical episode and warning them while safety taking control of the vehicle if appropriate.
Overall Toyota’s consumer-facing foray autonomous driving has been slower than some of the advancements made by companies like Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler and GM.
At the 2017 Detroit Auto Show Lexus president Tokuo Fukuichi revealed that he believed some companies were rushing to market with semi-autonomous tech as a way of demonstrating their superiority over rivals.
"One of the difficulties we have now is that all the companies are competing with having the most high-technology items, but part of the problem is that customers are lost in that conversation," said Fukuichi.
"Companies are putting on that technology but not always for the customers."
To date Toyota’s CSRC has completed 44 research projects with the assistance of 23 partner universities, and as well as contributing to Toyota’s in-house safety standards research by CSRC has been used by organisations including the Society of Automotive Engineers.