Friday, October 11, 2013
Toyota Takes Self-Driving Car For Spin On Tokyo Expressways
NAGOYA (Nikkei)--Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) has developed and road-tested a self-driving system for enhanced driving safety on freeways, a first in Japan.
The automaker aims to have a practical version of the technology ready by the middle of the decade.
The self-driving system uses cameras and radar to keep the car in its lane and control the brakes and steering wheel. It employs wireless communications to know when other cars are accelerating and braking, allowing for safer, smoother driving with better fuel efficiency.
Other companies including Nissan Motor Co. (7201), General Motors Co. and Google Inc. are also developing self-driving cars. Toyota has been testing the technology for two years now on public roads with the approval of the Transportation Ministry. But the automaker's latest road tests represent the first time the technology has been publically used on freeways in Japan.
Toyota tested its latest prototype car on the network of freeways in the greater Tokyo area. A driver was behind the wheel and always in control.
The car was equipped with a camera above the driver's seat and a millimeter-wave radar system in the front to detect the lines in the road and the paths of the cars traveling ahead. Previously, self-driving systems only worked to adjust the car to remain inside the lane on straight roads, but the latest version of the technology can drive the car even around sharp curves and in heavy traffic where cars are too close together to see the white line ahead.
In addition to the camera and radar equipment, Toyota's self-driving system also uses wireless communications in the frequency band allotted for cars to share information about braking and accelerating with cars in the front and rear. Sharing information this way can help prevent rear-end collisions, keep cars spaced appropriately apart, and improve fuel efficiency by reducing unnecessary acceleration and deceleration.
Because the use of this wireless communications technology will only spread if other automakers also use the same protocol, Toyota Managing Officer Moritaka Yoshida said the company would like to see it adopted as an industry standard.
(The Nikkei, Oct. 11 morning edition)