Toyota’s New Safety Tech Inspired By Fighter Jets


Toyota’s new Guardian driver assist is designed to “amplify human control of the vehicle, not replace it.”

Following last week’s preview, the Toyota Research Institute has revealed new details about its Guardian driver assistance technology at CES in Las Vegas. While other companies are focusing on autonomous technology that takes control away from the human driver, Toyota’s Guardian technology is designed to "amplify human control of the vehicle, not replace it,” and help avoid potential accidents rather than take complete control of the car. The technology is being showcased using the TRI-P4 prototype research car based on a modified Lexus LS 500h.

Dr. Gill Pratt, TRI CEO and Toyota Motor Corporation Fellow, explained how a test vehicle driving in manual mode with its autonomy mode disabled was involved in a three-car accident on a California freeway. "After we downloaded data from the incident, we asked ourselves; Could this crash have been mitigated, or avoided altogether by a future Toyota GuardianTM automated safety system? We believe the answer is yes," he said.

As a result, the Toyota Research Institute has spent the last year creating what it calls "blended envelope control” that "combines and coordinates the skills and strengths of the human and the machine.” The system was inspired by modern fighter jets, where the pilot doesn’t directly fly the plane. Instead, their intent is translated by the low-level flight control system that makes thousands of adjustments a second to stabilize the aircraft.

Toyota believes there shouldn’t be a "discrete on-off switch between the human and the autonomy” and wants drivers and the Guardian system to work together as teammates to extract the best input from each. This means the driver will always be in control while the Guardian system provides corrective steering, acceleration and braking responses to avoid accidents. Toyota is so confident about the technology, it plans to offer it to other automakers.

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Toyota is also simultaneously developing another system called Chauffeur, which, as the name implies, will offer full Level 5 vehicle autonomy, although Pratt acknowledged that public acceptance of fully autonomous vehicles "may take considerable time.”

"In the meantime, we have a moral obligation to apply automated vehicle technology to save as many lives as possible as soon as possible," he said.