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This van turns your side windows into screens to make you a safer driver. Wait, what?

The LA Auto Show is a place where excessive power and opulent luxury reign. But there is also a place for science and research – you know, the important stuff.

In that vein Toyota is showing off its Driver Awareness Research Vehicle or DAR-V.

I know, I know. Research and driver awareness is not nearly as sexy as some 600-horsepower supercar. However, in a driving world increasingly dominated by technological distractions, this sort of research might just save your life.

All of the onboard infotainment systems are designed based on the results of the scientific research performed by Toyota’s partners at Stanford and MIT. 

One of the main initiatives tested in the DAR-V is a system to prevent you using the driver distracting technologies in the first place. 

The DAR-V is designed to recognize the approach of the owner, presumably by detecting the key, and then display information on the driverside window. The car’s electronic brain is supposed to be smart enough to sort out your schedule, find the fastest route to work – including a stop at a gas station if the car detects its low on fuel.

 The idea here is a good one. You sort out all the distractions before you even get in the car. From there on, you can be focused on the road. However, there are one or two problems with this. 

The first big failing with this idea is that the car isn’t just displaying your personal info to you, but to the whole street.

Also, standing on the street staring at your window might be good for people who live near the LA Auto Show in SoCal. But for those of us in parts of the country where there is, you know, weather, this might be problematic.

Can’t you just picture it: You’re late for work, juggling your coffee and your briefcase. Your child is getting rained on. And you’re saying, “no dear, we can’t get in the car until its done telling us about the traffic.” I don’t think so.

Fortunately, the other pieces of tech on the DAR-V are a bit better thought out. The car is designed to recognize separate drivers and passengers and customize its displays and information to the individual.

Toyota says that this adaptability can help take the stress of the driver, for instance, by running the kids in the back through the process of buckling their seats. By itself this idea is only mildly clever. It does, however, show off the thought process that went into developing the Toyota DAR-V, the idea that the driver and the car can be teammates.

Driver and car working together to create a safe and efficient driving environment will be increasingly important as the driver is presented with ever increasing volumes of information. 

I am glad that Toyota is devoting resources to this, even if it doesn’t make for as much excitement as a supercar. 

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