Toyota’s Mount Fuji technology center, located in Shizuoka Prefecture, has a new building. In this building is the Intelligent Transportation System facility, a large indoor network of roads used to test Toyota’s newest safety technology. The idea, according to The Detroit News, is to make cars which can avoid crashes altogether through the use of sensors and equipment which allows the car to communicate with other cars, as well as transmitters in traffic lights and in the road itself. On the prototype cars being worked on, a warning bell alerts the driver if a pedestrian steps into the road, and a voice tells the driver if they are about to run a red light.
Much of the effort at this facility goes into preventing accidents at intersections, since this is where about half of all car accidents occur. The prototype cars will warn others in the area when they are approaching an intersection, so any other car approaching at the same time will have a green arrow appear on a screen in front of the driver which shows where the other vehicle is coming from. There is also a system to help with more forceful applications of the brakes, since research has shown that people often don’t press the brake pedal when they’re panicking. A new system will also detect when the gas is being applied when the driver really wants to press the brake pedal, and will then apply the brakes instead. That’s one piece of technology which could have saved Toyota an awful lot of trouble a few years ago.
The transmitters which are being used to communicate with the prototype cars will start being used on roads in Japan in 2014, and although no specific date has been set, there are plans to bring it to the US soon as well. As far as the equipment on the car itself, that will likely make its debut on Lexus-branded vehicles first. The equipment is getting better and cheaper all the time, but it is still very expensive and could potentially double the price of a cheaper Toyota model if it were put on the cars at today’s prices. But this kind of safety technology is expected to sell a lot of cars in the near future, and Toyota plans to be at the forefront of such a trend.