Nissan and Volvo have already committed to the idea of self-driving cars, or at least semi-automated, vehicles and it seems now that Toyota has jumped on the bandwagon. Toyota calls its system “Automated Highway Driving Assist,” or AHDA, and it’s probably not what you’re thinking it is.
Rather than some Orwellian plot to completely cut the human driver out of the equation, Toyota’s AHDA can be thought of as an evolution of the adaptive cruise control systems found in many new vehicles sold today.
Current ACC systems use laser or radar in order to judge the position of your vehicle relative to other vehicles on the road and automatically maintain a safe speed and following distance. If the system detects an increase collision risk, it can apply the brakes to help minimize the likelihood of the accident. These systems do not steer the vehicle for you.
Toyota’s AHDA would also take control of the steering in a highway setting thanks to their new Lane Trace Control system. The LTC system utilizes sensitive cameras, millimeter-wave radar, and other controlling software built into the vehicle in order to keep the vehicle in the proper lane at all times. It can adjust the steering angle, driving torque, and braking force of the vehicle as it sees fit in order to maintain lane stability.
Toyota notes, however, that the new systems are not meant to replace the driver in the driving equation. In a statement, they had this to say:
“Toyota recognizes the importance of the driver being in ultimate control of a vehicle and is therefore aiming to introduce AHDA and other advanced driving spport systems where the driver maintains control and the fun-to-drive aspect of controlling a vehicle is not compromised.”
Items like this often leave me with an overall feeling of indifference. On one hand, I can appreciate the new technology and understand its intentions. On the other, however, I can’t help but shake the feeling that many new cars are trying to get their operators to enjoy everything they possibly can… except for driving.
Here’s a video I found on youtube that showcases a Lexus prototype self-driving vehicle of this type from the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. Obviously, production versions won’t have all the instrumentation and hardware attached to the vehicle, but what do you think? Would you purchase a car that did your highway driving for you? If so, what would you do with your new “free time?” If not, why?