Toyota doesn't want robots to drive its cars until well into the future.
The frequency in which autonomous technology has been making headlines can lead many to conclude that we're about to see a huge shift in the way we move about, but Toyota seems to be more skeptical about the matter. According to Bloomberg, even though the automaker has invested over $1 billion into research of autonomous cars, it foresees humans behind the wheel for quite a while longer. The reason for this is that society seems to accept the 1.3 million people that die in crashes each year around the world.
However, Toyota believes that if autonomous cars killed the same number of people, there would be riots in the streets. Additionally, the automaker likes to kindly point out that there are quite a few barriers to break down before we find ourselves being driven by robots. Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute that was created by Toyota's $1 billion investment, took to the stage at CES in Las Vegas and said, "None of us in the automobile or IT industries are close to achieving true Level 5 autonomy…It will take many years of machine learning and many more miles than anyone has logged of both simulated and real-world testing to achieve the perfection required.''
Still, this doesn't mean that the automakers will stop trying. For the time being, most will focus on Level 1 or Level 2 autonomy where a vehicle is only in control of a few functions and leaves the humans to do the rest. Getting past level two will be the hard part, meaning automakers will likely only sell full Level 4 autonomous vehicles (cars that need no human input to travel roads) to customers. This is because Level 3 autonomy has its downsides. A car is deemed a Level 3 vehicle when it can drive itself from point A to point B with a human behind the wheel waiting to intervene when things go south, but that sort of system will likely be reserved for scenarios like Uber's fleet of self-driving cars.
That's because Level 3 autonomy is impractical for most drivers since they could build too much confidence in the system after a few successful drives and get distracted. This is the premise Toyota is using to justify building cars with the driver in mind for years to come, although the fact that it's keeping its research center well funded means it isn't entirely turning its back on an autonomous future. The goal is ultimately to build a car that is so good at driving it can be classifies as a Level 5 car, where it can travel any road, dirt, city, or snow, without a human,