Autonomous technology is one of the biggest things happening in the automotive industry today. Over the last three years, car manufacturing giant Toyota has been working on autonomous technology for their vehicles in two different modes: Chauffeur and Guardian. Chauffeur is being designed to work towards full Level 5 vehicular autonomy: cars that can drive themselves. Guardian is meant not to remove human drivers, but to assist them.
The Guardian system is designed to augment driver ability, and provide a higher level of information and safety while driving. This is being called blended envelope control. Guardian combines the skills the driver with the precision of the AI system to create a more stable driving experience. The system is more of an automated safety system than a fully autonomous AI system.
The system is being trained on closed circuits, being run through incredibly dangerous scenarios to test the limits of what it can do. Through this continuous refinement, the system learns, adapts, and improves.
All data from crashes, near-misses, and other driving experiences are fed into one central algorithm that begins to understand how driving works. However this system must also function in a predictive way while on the road, understanding that a pedestrian moving to the side of a pavement will in all likelihood cross the road, whether at a designated crossing point or not. To a machine, this doesn’t make logical sense, but it’s something that must be learned, accounted for, and eventually anticipated when navigated roads filled with humans that don’t follow the rules.
There is of course a massive demand for autonomous technology in the automotive industry, as the vast majority of car accidents come from human error. Giving AI systems partial or complete control of cars could lead to a decrease in collisions, and Toyota has described this as a ‘moral obligation’. The Guardian system is the latest development in seeing this philosophy of safety come to fruition.
The technology could by ready and on the roads by the early 2020s. From there, it would be included as standard in all of Toyota’s e-Palette platforms that the company is planning to build for the Mobility as a Service market, and it will be offered to other automakers. This could lead to a more wide-spread adoption of automated safety systems, and may have a significant impact on the numbers of collisions on the roads.
For critics of autonomous technology, the Guardian system occupies a more palatable middle ground, and will service those in the market who would never be comfortable with a car that does all the driving for them. Over the next decade the technology will come under serious scrutiny as both fully autonomous and partially autonomous cars take to the roads in greater numbers.
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