Safety systems are quickly integrating into autonomous cars that will keep us safe... but will it cost us the freedom to drive ourselves one day?
For better or worse, cars are becoming increasingly automated. We say better, because these systems are making driving safer by detecting things like imminent collisions and driver alertness. We say worse because they lead down a slippery slope (albeit by controlled descent) towards removing the driver from driving. Although a multitude of automakers have been integrating these safety systems into their cars, a handful have been experimenting with completely autonomous cars.
Google is one of those, but Toyota is also getting in on the self-driving car game. At the Consumer Electronics Show now under way in Las Vegas, the Japanese automaker has just revealed details of an automated prototype based on the Lexus LS sedan which it calls the Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle, depicted here in this stock footage.
The rolling test bed carries a number of systems under the banner of Toyota's Integrated Safety Management Concept which combines various new technologies to let the Lexus essentially drive itself. Those technologies include GPS, stereoscopic cameras, radar and a laser system called Light Detection and Ranging. LIDAR uses a spinning sensor mounted atop the car that can detect objects all around the car for 70 meters, supplemented by three high-def color cameras that can read as far as 150 meters to see other vehicles on the road and even read traffic lights.
The result of all these systems is that the car can drive itself - starting up the engine from park, driving off, stopping to avoid collisions and safeguarding the occupants in case of a crash. Toyota states that while the systems are not designed with creating an autonomous production vehicle in mind, it could lead to such a development in the future. "Instead, Toyota and Lexus envision technologies that enhance the skills of the driver, believing a more skillful driver is a safer driver." For our part, we don't see how taking control away from the driver could possibly make him or her a more skillful driver, but it could definitely make driving a safer prospect.