Hands Free Driving No Longer a Futuristic Dream

Posted Saturday, Oct 17, 2015 by nhtwpprod

Who remembers movies like Demolition Man and Back to the Future, where cars drove themselves? If you thought that was a futuristic dream that would never happen in your lifetime, you were wrong! While you won’t find them at Los Angeles Toyota dealers just yet, there are Toyota vehicles that have a new feature designed to allow drivers to keep their hands off the wheel.

Mobility Teammate

On a crowded Tokyo Expressway a test driver clicks a button, sits back, removes his hands from the steering wheel and relaxes while his vehicle merges into traffic. This technology, called Mobility Teammate is going to differentiate Toyota vehicles from other car manufacturers as this futuristic way of driving comes of age. This isn’t a driverless car, or a super computer that has the intelligence to navigate wherever it needs to go without a driver in the driver’s seat; it’s simply a way to allow drivers to let go of the wheel sometimes and not worry.

Toyota discusses the system and says “Interactions between drivers and cars should mirror those between close friends who share a common purpose—sometimes watching over each other and sometimes helping each other. This approach acknowledges the utility of automated driving technologies while maintaining the fun experience of driving itself.”

While some may feel that automated driving will leave the actual driver out of the picture, Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda believes that cars should be fun to drive. In Japan the tag line for Toyota vehicles is “Fun to drive, again.”

Many of us feel as if we are one with our car as we navigate winding roads, or slip between vehicles in rush hour traffic. In fact, our cars feel like an extension of us as we drive along with the radio turned up and the windows rolled down. The concept of autonomous cars being part of a team with us should not be difficult to accept. While the concept and prototype of the self-driving car leaves little for the driver to do, there are still options and requirements that the driver must participate in. The driver programs the destination into the navigation program, and then drives in the normal way to a highway on-ramp. As the car goes through a tollbooth, the auto drive function signals a “ready” mode. At this time the driver can flip the switch and let go of the wheel. The main point is that Mobility Teammate doesn’t replace the driver; it exists to make driving more enjoyable.

When Will These Cars Be Available?

Public road testing just began in March 2015 in Japan. You likely won’t see these cars at Los Angeles Toyota dealers for several years. Toyota hopes to roll out this technology on consumer vehicles in 2020. There are plenty of hurdles to cross before this new technology is ready to be released to the general public. There are 6 lidar sensors, a large stereo camera behind the rearview mirror, and two millimeter wave radar sensors on the vehicle, as well as GPS. One problem that the company faces is the need for very precise navigation mapping. The stretch of highway the car is tested on was mapped by an independent company—typical GPS maps simply aren’t going to cut it.

For more information on the latest Toyota innovations, feel free to visit your local LA Toyota dealer today.