November 13, 2012

Toyota’s Truly Smart Cars

A few years ago Toyota had cars that seemingly had a mind of their own. The Japanese automobile maker was reportedly plagued by an acceleration issue in some cars just two years ago, but with that problem in the rearview mirror the company is now looking at a way to have cars communicate with one another.

This won’t require a motorized version of Doctor Doolittle, who can drive with the automobiles and talk with the automobiles, but instead will rely on a central Intelligent Transport System site that could receive information from sensors and transmitters installed on the streets. This could in turn rely information from various automobiles to the central site and pass on the data to other cars.

This way as one car reports an out of operation traffic signal the information would be passed onto to other cars, which would provide a warning to the driver.

Toyota is now testing such a vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology at its research and development facility that is located outside of Tokyo. The goal is to get this technology out of the labs and into cars. According to reports this week on the Motortrend website ( the technology would make its way to Toyota models, including the Lexus brand in the next few years.

Of course it won’t hit American streets for a while, but Toyota is now looking to have the V2V technology on the roads in Japan by 2014. Similar tests are now planned for the United States but Toyota hasn’t announced any pilot programs yet.

The goal from Toyota isn’t just to make this data a bonus feature for luxury car owners, even if that this is likely where it will debut given the high costs. Instead the company hopes to make it widely available over time as way to reduce accidents. It could help prevent collisions and potentially even help elderly drivers.

“We offer the world’s top-level technology,” Managing Officer Moritaka Yoshida told reports on Monday, as reported in the Detroit Free Press.

Toyota has been working to develop various safety technologies, including automatic braking, and the world’s leading automaker has also developed a sonar sensor that can help drivers avoid collisions in parking lots. Another system that Toyota has developed reportedly can determine if a driver has pushed on the gas pedal by mistake instead of the brakes and can stop the car automatically.

Toyota is not alone in devising technology that reduces accidents. While most major automakers are working on pre-crash safety technology as a way to add value to the cars, the strongest growth in demand for this technology is coming from the emerging markets.

Recently rival Nissan Motor Company showed off its own safety technology with cars that could park themselves and even swerve away from pedestrians who jumped into the path of the vehicle. This electronically managed steering system includes next-generation steering utilizes signals to control the tires, not a mechanical link. Announced last month, it is set to be introduced in an Infiniti Luxury models within the next year and would be the world’s first for a commercially produced car.

A generation ago Ralph Nader suggested that design dangers in some American cars were “Unsafe at Any Speed,” but now it seems safety is where the auto industry is driving to at full speed.

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on,,, and Peter is a regular writer for

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