Not everyone is open to the idea of self-driving cars, and Toyota wants to ensure that those people can still enjoy most of the benefits of self-driving cars while still maintaining control of their vehicle. To do this, the company is developing a “guardian angel” system that will automatically assist the driver, or even take control of the vehicle completely, in order to avoid danger. Implementing self-driving technology slowly like this is probably the best way to make driver more comfortable with the idea.
Toyota’s researchers are developing what they call a “guardian angel” system that will automatically take control of a vehicle, or subtly adjust a driver’s actions, in order to avert danger. In contrast to other companies working on self-driving vehicles, the Japanese carmaker sees combining machine and human driving as a key step toward full autonomy. “In the same way that antilock braking and emergency braking work, there is a virtual driver that is trying to make sure you don’t have an accident by temporarily taking control from you,” explains Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, a company the carmaker created last year with $1 billion in funding to research automated driving, artificial intelligence, and robotics (see “Toyota’s Billion-Dollar Bet”). Pratt announced the guardian-angel effort, as well as plans to create a new TRI facility close to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, during a speech at a conference in San Jose today.