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Toyota exec warns against deploying self-driving tech 'too fast'

Confusingly, the same executive says the company needs to roll out new safety tech as quickly as possible.

Toyota electronics R&D vice president Wayne Powell has called for the industry to be quicker in rolling out new safety tech, yet he also cautions against deploying such innovations before drivers have built trust in the systems.

Speaking at a Center for Automotive Research event, Powell told attendees "we have a moral obligation to deploy to save lives as soon as we can," according to quotes published by Automotive News.

The comments were related to Toyota's incremental enhancements to its advanced driver assistance technology that will add lane-keeping assist and promises to improve safety in low-light conditions.

The company is also working on a Level 5 fully autonomous system, known as Chauffeur, and an interim solution that will provide much more advanced intervention during human-piloted driving, such as automatic swerving to avoid a vehicle that suddenly pulls out from behind an obstacle.

In an interview with Plastics News, Powell voiced a different perspective on some of the technologies that aren't yet ready for production. He admitted that "it's often said that we're lagging," and "that's generally not an untrue statement," yet he calls for caution and building customer "trust" before rolling out unfamiliar technology.

"We can introduce technologies and systems in the car that are too complicated. People don't understand them. They don't trust them," he said. "If you put a system in a car where the goal is to make it safer, but the driver doesn't trust it, it hasn't done its job."

Toyota is among several established automakers battling a perception that they are falling behind in the race toward full autonomy. Powell's comments echo Ford's "A Matter of Trust" manifesto, which raised a few eyebrows by declaring that technology isn't the central challenge in developing self-driving technology, but rather a lack of trust among the public.

Notably, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has argued that a fatal Autopilot accident was evidence of too much trust in the technology rather than a lack thereof. The company is nonetheless working to build trust while the semi-autonomous technology is already deployed, regularly releasing data comparing the accident rates of vehicles with Autopilot engaged and while under manual control.

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