Toyota to keep an eye on drivers

8 September 2005

Unsurprisingly, you are more likely to crash if an emergency unfolds ahead while you’re not looking at the road – hence Auto IT’s obsession with head-up displays and general disapproval of supplementary screens mounted low in centre consoles. If you’re going to have a built-in screen showing navigation information, it’s safer to put it right at the top of the dashboard.
As long as there are children, spouses and other distractions inside cars, however, drivers will still find the need to look away from the road from time to time.
As a result, Toyota has developed a new safety system that provides early warning of an imminent collision, taking into account whether the driver is looking straight ahead.
Using a camera mounted on the steering column, coupled with an image-processing computer, the system detects the orientation of the driver’s face.
This information is fed into Toyota’s Pre-crash Safety System, which uses radar and a camera to detect obstacles on the road ahead so that the driver can be prompted to stand on the brakes when a collision seems very likely. Then, if the driver fails to react to the alarm and a collision still appears imminent, Toyota’s system will throw out the anchors and perform an emergency stop all by itself, regardless of how the driver’s right foot reacts.
According to Toyota, if the camera reveals that the driver is not facing forwards then the warnings will be delivered sooner - or in other words when the probability of a crash is somewhat lower – to give a moment longer for the driver to assess the emergency.
The new safety feature will be offered initially on a Japanese-market Lexus, starting next spring. Toyota hasn’t yet said which Lexus will get the honour.
Incidentally, Toyota's Pre-crash Safety System (at least partially developed by parts supplier Denso) works a lot like the Bosch Predictive Safety System seen in VW and Audi vehicles. But it has to be said that the German package has a much more reassuring name, particularly for those who want to avoid actually crashing...

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