Toyota has developed and tested new technologies to safeguard drivers, dubbed Integrated Vehicle Systems. These new safety technologies will need government recognition in safety ratings and infrastructure investment, though, to really take off.  (Source: Toyota)

One example of an IVS technology Toyota has implemented is an autobraking feature that allows the car to communicate with wireless-equipped traffic lights to prevent running lights via autobraking.  (Source: Toyota)

Another example involves sensors that detect pedestrians and offer warnings and then autobraking in the vehicle to stop the driver from hitting them.  (Source: Toyota)

Yet another example of an IVS technology is Toyota's "Green Wave Advisor" which involves the car communicating with a string of traffic lights to determine the optimal speed to go to make them all. The speed required is shown as a green bar on the speedometer. The result is greater fuel efficiency.  (Source: Toyota)
We catch up with Toyota on their efforts to bring new "smart road" technologies into the mainstream

At CES 2010 we had a brief discussion with Jeff Lovell, an engineer in Toyota's Integrated Vehicle Systems (IVS) group, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  That discussion eventually led to us getting the chance to get a personal briefing on Toyota's IVS efforts.

Amid quality concerns and recent recalls, Toyota is looking to improve the safety of its cars.  Toyota, however, is not alone in that objective -- across the industry, many companies are trying to come up with solutions to safeguard drivers from their own errors, and additionally help guide drivers to the optimal speed to prevent traffic congestion and fuel waste.

The answer to these problems may well lie with integrated vehicle systems.  Integrated systems on a most basic level consist of wireless devices that let cars "talk" to each other and to roadside devices in order to take safety precautions or give the driver advice.

Toyota is a participant on CAMP (Crash Avoidance Metrics Project), a project organized by the Vehicle Safety Communications Consortium 3 (VSC3) [PDF], an automaker alliance that is comprised of Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai-Kia, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen.  Toyota is also a member of Intellidrive, which contains the same players minus Hyundai-Kia and with BMW and Chrysler added.  VSC3 handles more of the tech development, while Intellidrive champions the business and policy side of the technology.

Jeff Lovell describes Toyota's personal progress in the field describing, "Maybe you saw an out of control car coming." He says the company has demonstrated systems, including a 2008 New York Auto Show demo, which apply the brake in such a scenario, assuming the car has access to communications with the other vehicle or roadside sensors.

Toyota is making an effort to give the driver as much flexibility as possible.  The driver will first get a set of increasingly urgent visual and audio warnings.  If they ignore them, auto braking may be applied to prevent an accident, but even then the driver can retake control.  Describes Mr. Lovell, "If auto braking were to start, if the users applies the brake or throttle all [automated] braking is canceled."

Toyota's IVS team tells us that their goal is to "equip every car" with IVS safety features, from the cheapest Toyota models to the highest end Lexus luxury vehicles.  However, it won't be easy.  Stakes Hideki Hada, the group's manager, "Someone needs to work really hard to make something like this happen."

The communications standards are already well established by industry groups according to Toyota's IVS group members.  An IVS today consists of wireless transmitters built into cars, communicating on the IEEE 802.11p standard and the 1609.x standards.  They pass messages in the format SAE J2375.  The hardware used is all standard -- the IVS software can be loaded onto a preexisting automotive embedded microcontroller, or a second ECU.  The only extra component needed in terms of hardware is the wireless transmitter.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Research and Innnovative Technology Association (RITA), the two U.S. government groups overseeing the technology, will make a critical decision in 2013 that will affect whether these safety features will make it into cars in the short term.  The groups will rule whether to acknowledge if the technologies have advanced sufficiently to make a difference the crash safety ratings.  Without this acknowledgment, most manufacturers will not put the systems in the vehicles as the majority of customers will not know about or be able to appreciate the extra investment in each vehicle and, more significantly, in roadside infrastructure.

If the 2013 verdict is in the favor of IVS systems like Toyota's, a variety of technologies could be implemented.  Toyota showed us one example that applies the brakes if vehicles signal to each other that they are getting too close.  Another example applies the brakes if the driver is going to run a red light or hit a pedestrian on a cross walk.  A final example is a signal between the driver and road lights which tells the driver the speed to follow to make a string of green lights.

The technology certainly sounds promising both for making driving more efficient and safer.  However, it will come at a major cost.  Initial deployment would likely involve installing communications devices and sensors on highway entrance ramps and traffic lights in major cities.  Eventually the technology would spread across much of the rest of the nation's roads making for "smart" connected roads and vehicles.

A common question among 
DailyTech readers is when cars will be able to "drive themselves".  Lorenzo Caminiti, Toyota's IVS Assistant Manager says that the focus is now merely on safety, but once the infrastructure for these basic IVS technologies was in place, richer applications like automated driving would become more feasible.

Ultimately, the group expressed a mix of optimism and concerns about the pace of adoption here in the U.S.  IVS technology has already been deployed to Japanese roadways, starting with Tokyo, thanks to a major Japanese commitment.  Toyota's Japanese models now have some of these auto braking features built in, and they are already helping to save lives.  The U.S. trails Japan, according to the team, but they are actually ahead of China and the European Union -- both of which currently are only in the beginning stages of considering IVS.

In the end, the entire world and the global industry is headed to the same place according to Toyota's engineers. A smart global road system that can communicate with cars and supports relaying intercar signals.  That's something to look forward to in coming years.

DailyTech would like to thank Jeff Lovell and Toyota External Affairs Specialist Cynthia Mahalak for setting up this interview.

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