Toyota: ‘Stay the boss in an autonomous car’
“The autonomous car can’t end driving pleasure if people want to drive themselves”, states Toyota. “If in our cars the drivers won’t allow entire control of a computer, it will not happen.”
“With the help of all driving aids that will be implemented in the car of the future, driving will become much safer”, says Seigo Kuzumaki, chief security engineer at Toyota. “The computer will intervene when something unexpected is happening and therefore will protect passengers. He will not take the place of the driver if he doesn’t want it.”
Toyota sees all these security systems rather as a guardian angel. “We see competitors developing cars that take full control”, says Gill Pratt, head of Toyota Research Institute. “We don’t believe in this direction. We want the driver to remain the master of the car and also enjoy driving.”
There is still a long way to go before the autonomous car hits the road. “The biggest challenge until now is when you give the responsibility for driving back to the driver. Is he ready for it at that precise moment?”
Other problems are weather conditions. “Not all sensors function well when there is snow, heavy rain, fog, etc. We also need adapted legislation about responsibility, better navigation aids that also respect data privacy. A long way to go”, says Kuzumaki.
A very important factor is the ability of computers to learn. Professor Luc Van Gool from KU Leuven is working on this with Toyota. “A learning computer works faster and better and needs less data”, says Van Gool. “Our biggest challenge is to make a computer think like a human being. When it’s able to do that, it will be safer because it will be able to multitask.”
Gill Pratt concludes: “Things have to go very quickly, we think we can offer autonomous driving in cities like we intend to do it around the year 2025. We are putting all efforts in it, because every casualty less is a victory. Every year 1,3 million people die in traffic worldwide. We have to stop this.”