Toyota shows off autopilot tech system


Toyota on Friday unveiled next-generation car technologies that automatically swerve to avoid collisions while also keeping to the middle of the road — without drivers touching the wheel — and which could be on the market in just a few years’ time.

“These advanced driving support technologies prevent human errors, reduce driving stress and help drivers avert accidents, which has a big potential to reduce the number of traffic deaths,” Toyota Managing Director Moritaka Yoshida said at a presentation in Tokyo.

Leading automakers and technology firms, including Toyota, rival Nissan Motor Co. and Internet giant Google Inc., have been working on self-driving and assisted-driving technology for years.

Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, said that while drivers would still need to stay alert and engaged in driving the vehicle, it essentially lets them put the vehicle on autopilot, leaving most of the work to the computer system.

The Automated Highway Driving Assist (AHDA) system lets vehicles communicate wirelessly to avoid running into each other while keeping the car in the middle of the lane — no matter how many twists and turns lie ahead.

“Cars with these technologies recognize the accelerating or slowing speed of those ahead, which also helps avoid traffic jams,” said project manager Mitsuhisa Shida. “They can wirelessly exchange data once every 0.1 seconds.”

Toyota plans to install AHDA in its commercial models over the next few years. The automaker has already introduced the pre-collision braking assist system in its Lexus luxury sedan and plans to install it in other models by 2015, with the other technologies to follow.

Many cars already have systems that give drivers a panoramic view to watch out for nearby objects while the vehicle parks itself.

The latest collision-avoidance system has doubled the detection time of oncoming objects to four seconds from the previous two seconds, Toyota added.

The automaker said such advances would be especially helpful for the elderly.