In the race to get autonomous vehicles on the road, Toyota is finally tossing cynicism aside, while Nissan is pulling back a bit on its original 2020 projection not because it won’t have the technology, but because it doesn’t think lawmakers will be ready for it.
Toyota Gets Serious About Self-Driving Cars
Tuesday, Toyota showed off new autonomous vehicle technology in what it calls the “Mobility Teammate Concept” and promised to start selling self-driving cars in Japan by 2020. That’s the same year, not so coincidentally, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics.
This is an important about face by the automaker, because Toyota’s been slow to get on the self-driving bandwagon. Even though it’s been working on tech since the 1990s, until now it’s been pretty pessimistic about the whole idea, warning that the idea of a driverless car was unrealistic.
“It’s an important step for us,” Toyota Chief Safety Technology Officer Moritaka Yoshida said. “Automatic driving is a technology that will change the concept of the car.”
Tuesday, in a demonstration on a Tokyo highway, a Lexus drove itself within the 37 mph speed limit for about 10 minutes, changing lanes, braking and steering. A driver at the wheel didn’t have to do a thing except hit the on button.
While the “Mobility Teammate Concept” isn’t ready for the road, Toyota also showed off automated vehicle-to-infrastructure technology that is ready. It’s called Intelligent Transportation System Connect and it has sensors that can communicate with smart technology at street corners and intersections. It detects oncoming cars and pedestrians then warns vehicles through data transmission and can even communicate with other cars on the road. It will be available on some upcoming models in Japan.
Nissan CEO Warns Government Regulations Could Slow Down Efforts
Toyota has certainly been slow to catch up with companies like Nissan, which three years ago became one of the first automakers to promise self-driving cars by 2020. But now Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn isn’t so sure about that timetable.
At a press conference ahead of the Frankfurt Motor Show, Ghosn said Nissan while will be ready with the technology, regulation may not be. He warned that laws allowing hands-free driving may get in the way of getting these vehicles on the road.
“You can build a lot of autonomy, but if the consumer or the driver cannot enjoy it because he still has to have his hands on the wheel, he still has to have his eyes on the road, it just puts cost in the car without the benefit,” said Ghosn.
Nissan’s three-step plan begins next year, “where you can be on the highway as long as you don’t change lanes and you can be in autonomous mode.” Then in 2018, these systems will be able to change lanes without human intervention. For the final step in 2020, “We’re going to have cars capable in the city and on the highway to make more complicated operations [in an] autonomous way,” said Ghosn.
Check out his remarks below.
Photo Credit: Nissan