- Toyota doesn’t just want its cars to drive themselves; it wants them to grab the wheel to stop you from crashing. Toyota’s researchers are developing what they call a “guardian angel” system that will automatically take control of a vehicle, or subtly adjust a driver’s actions, in order to avert danger. In contrast to other companies working on self-driving vehicles, the Japanese carmaker sees combining machine and human driving as a key step toward full autonomy.
“In the same way that antilock braking and emergency braking work, there is a virtual driver that is trying to make sure you don’t have an accident by temporarily taking control from you,” explains Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute(TRI), a company the carmaker created last year with $1 billion in funding to research automated driving, artificial intelligence, and robotics (see “Toyota’s Billion-Dollar Bet”).
Pratt announced the guardian-angel effort, as well as plans to create a new TRI facility close to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, during a speech at a conference in San Jose today.
TRI will hire around 50 people for the new institute in Ann Arbor. They will collaborate with University of Michigan researchers on self-driving cars and robotics.
TRI, which already has facilities in Palo Alto, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, will test prototype vehicles at all three locations, Pratt said. But the team in Ann Arbor will also use a specialized self-driving testing facility, called MCity, which can be used to mock up different scenarios (see “A Town Built for Driverless Cars”).