Toyota’s driverless cars will feature two steering wheels to make them even safer than conventional driverless cars, the company has announced. The second steering wheel can be used by a human to take over the controls if necessary – for example if the sensors fail to identify an obstacle.
Toyota is using Lexus LS 600hL cars for its experiments, with LIDAR, radar, and camera arrays to help it detect hazards. The same model will be used for both types of Toyota autonomous car software – Level 4, which will restricts the cars to certain areas and Level 5, which will be able to operate anywhere.
This latter version will pack in extra sensors to work out whether the driver is feeling drowsy or is distracted and will take over the controls accordingly.
“The usability and safety are really important to us, and Toyota in general,” said James Kuffner, chief technology officer at TRI. “We think that driver monitoring technology to basically confirm that a driver is engaged is an important part of deploying this technology safely. Our research vehicle prototype we think is the most perceptive car in the world.”
But safety is still at the heart of everything Toyota (and most other autonomous car manufacturers) is working on and that’s why it’s focusing on the software, while using Lexus hardware rather than its own models.
“Our software system fuses information from all our sensors to try to come up with a very reliable model for what is happening around the car, and cross-validate the measurements between each of those sensing modalities,” Kuffner added.
However, there are still plenty of hoops to jump through before the public and authorities are happy for such cars to hit the roads commercially.