Recently Volvo announced that it wanted to cut the deaths of people in its cars to zero by 2020. It’s a big goal, given the fact that a million people die on the road each year around the world. What’s more, the number of people dying in rich countries has plateaued in recent years. This suggests that we’ve made about all the safety improvements we can, without transitioning to more exotic tech.
But Volvo is a relatively small player on the global scene. By itself, it’s not going to have a big impact on the world of automotive safety. Toyota, on the other hand, will. It’s the world’s largest car manufacturer, almost nine million cars in 2015 alone.
It’s thanks to the likes of Volvo and Tesla that Toyota is getting serious about safety. The fact that other car makers are going to extreme lengths to protect their customers has almost forced their hand. For the market leader to keep pace, it is going to have to adapt to new conditions. And this is certainly what it looks like it is trying to do. Over the last five years or so, ever since car safety went supernova, Toyota has been updating its features. Now the car company looks set to continue leading the world, thanks to its safety drive.
In this post, we’re going to examine some of the ways that the car company is improving driver safety. After all, it is the company best positioned to make an impact in this area.
A lot of what Toyota can now do has all been made possible by the collapse in the price of sensor technology. Sensors have become cheaper than ever. And so it should come as no surprise that they are finding their way into our cars.
Toyota’s new pre-collision system takes advantage of the collapse in the price of sensors. It essentially works by firing a laser out in front of the car at oncoming vehicles. This laser is then reflected back and captured by the onboard camera.
Because the laser fires rapidly, the car can tell how quickly two vehicles are approaching each other. If it senses that they’re headed for a collision, it’ll start blasting out warning sounds, and the dashboard will start flashing.
The driver then has a short window of time to apply the brakes themselves. And if they don’t? Well, the car will do it for them.
Toyota doesn’t claim that this will prevent collisions full-stop. But they do believe that this “pre-crash safety system” has the potential to reduce injury on the road vastly.
Lane Departure Alert
Distracted driving is a common cause of accidents, according to DKB Lawyers, an Orange County Car Accident Law Firm. That’s why Toyota’s lane departure alert is so important. While it’s true that Toyota did not pioneer the technology, the fact that it is in their cars is informative. It’s no longer the case that these high-end safety technologies are, well, high-end. If Toyota includes them as standard, it sends a signal that the market is moving on. It’s rather like what happened when air conditioning first made an appearance in the car market. In the 1990s, it was only found on luxury models. In the 2000s, practically every car, besides economy models, had some sort of climate control.
The way the lane departure system works is as follows. First, the camera at the front of the car is calibrated to detect painted lines on the road. Then, the system will start making alert noises once the driver drifts out of their lane. Simple really.
Of course, this could get annoying since lane changing is a regular part of driving. But the system only engages if you don’t use the indicator. In other words, it can tell when you didn’t mean to change lane, perhaps because you were falling asleep.
Automatic High Beam
Automatic high beams should have been introduced years ago. All our lives we’ve had to put up with constantly flicking our high beams on and off while driving at night. Again, thanks to low-cost sensors, Toyota is finally solving the problem.
Having high beams on in the face of oncoming traffic is potentially a serious hazard. You don’t need me to tell you that. Drivers can be disorientated, even blinded by the bright light.
But now the camera on the front of the car can detect the light from oncoming cars. And it adjusts the brightness of the headlights for you. It’s pretty sophisticated actually. You might worry that it wouldn’t be all that much use in places with street lights. But clever software gives drivers an optimal experience during these conditions too.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Toyota’s version of cruise control might not be as impressive as Tesla’s, but it does tell you something about the shape of the car market. Tesla’s highway cruise mode is considered to be the pinnacle of automotive tech. But here we see a version, albeit a stripped down version, in everyday vehicles.
Toyota’s adaptive cruise control is more sophisticated than your average cruise control. It constantly monitors the distance between your car and the car in front. In a way, it’s exactly what cruise control should have been all along. Your car simply adjusts to the speed of the car in front while you sit back and relax, waiting for the motorway miles to end.
We often forget that pedestrians are often the victims of car accidents. But it’s because so many pedestrians are killed each year that car makers are making their cars safer for pedestrians too. And Toyota is no exception.
Toyota’s pedestrian system makes use of two technologies. One is a camera that scans the vicinity for pedestrians at risk. The other is a radar which is good at detecting hidden pedestrians.
The software in the car is pretty good at working out when a collision is likely to happen. As with the pre-collision system, it allows the driver a window of opportunity to brake. If the driver doesn’t brake, the car takes matters into its own hands and breaks anyway.