Monday, March 4

Toyota is Studying A Way for Cars to Talk to Pedestrians

People are certainly creatures of habit. We see a stop sign and we stop, we see a sign that tells us where to cross the street and we feel it’s safe to do so. We have specific, mostly predictable behaviors when we interact with traffic, our own vehicles, and pedestrians. As we move toward a world of automation, the need to ensure comfort with that automation is paramount. Toyota is working on cars that can autonomously operate in a polite and courteous manner to make sure pedestrians can feel safe around them.

What’s Needed for a Smooth Transition?

To have comfort with a new part of any industry, we expect to find some familiar aspects to this new item. This is why it’s important for designers and engineers to understand how drivers and pedestrians communicate in the vehicles we have in the market right now. Once this study is completed, the team at Toyota will understand how to program their vehicles with autonomous technology to continue to interact with pedestrians in a predictable and comfortable manner. Knowing how we will react to vehicles that are driving themselves is a huge part of making a smooth transition.

Toyota is Working with Experts

A collaborative effort to understand the interaction between drivers and pedestrians is taking place right now. The Toyota team is working with the MIT AgeLab and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cognitive Systems Lab to understand how these two groups think and interact together. The goal of this study is to develop an understanding and advanced vehicle safety and signaling items that will create a smooth transition and the possibility of autonomous vehicles in the future. We won’t have autonomous vehicles in every market until vehicles can fully perform better than we can during all types of driving.

How Could This Benefit Society?

It’s not a secret that most of the over 35,000 automobile-related deaths each year are caused by human error behind the wheel. If the vehicle could do the driving for you, this number could be significantly reduced. We know that automated systems can react more quickly than we can and with the number of distractions we have during our drive, its more important than ever before to turn driving over to the car. Toyota is working to develop the safest systems to give us automated driving and reduce the number of vehicular deaths each year.

Behavior Studies Will be Implemented

So far, the study has found that drivers have specific small behaviors that indicate their intent to stop for pedestrians. This includes stopping earlier and farther away than they would for a stop sign. These small factors could be implemented in the future programming of safety technology to allow the development of autonomous vehicles that can perform and behave in a predictable manner. We will certainly see Toyota offer advanced safety features that take small steps toward an autonomous driving world to give us a future that’s safer with the car doing the driving for us.

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