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Toyota eschews driverless cars

by Ben Hsu

The automaker believes the perfect road sensor already exists: the driver.

Toyota has announced that it will not be developing a fully autonomous car. The automaker's reasoning for eschewing the long held vision of future by sci-fi dreamers and automakers alike is quite simple: humans do it better.

Toyota's Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan hosted an Advanced Safety Seminar ahead of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America's World Congress held in Detroit last week. At the conference companies, universities and research institutions displayed the latest in driverless tech.

However, rather than banks of sensors and silicon, Kristen Tabar, vice president of Toyota Technical Center told Car and Driver that the "ultimate in sensor fusion" already exists, and it has been under — or attached to, rather — our noses all along. "[Human beings] have the visual, audible advantage, all the different inputs to make the best judgments moving forward.”

Toyota believes quasi-autonomous driver assistance technology — such as lane keeping technology, adaptive cruise control, driver alertness detection — should supplement human input rather than replace it. Likewise, there are times when those systems won't work, when lane markers aren't available, for instance.

Toyota's deputy chief safety officer Seigo Kuzumaki explained further in a speech reported by Wards Auto. "I want you to start thinking of the vehicle and the driver as teammates, sharing the common goal of traveling safely. The best teammates learn from each other. They watch, listen and remember. They communicate, and they assist, when needed."

Toyota also pledged $35 million to its Collaborative Safety Research Center in Ann Arbor, which works with policymakers and research institutions to improve auto safety. Toyota will not be following rivals Nissan, BMW, or Tesla, nor tech giants like Google with autonomous vehicles. As Kuzumaki stated, "Toyota's main objective is safety, so it will not be developing a driverless car."

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