Join Date: Apr 2011
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Toyota has developed a Prius that can be operated remotely with a smartphone – just like the BMW 7 Series from James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies. And Auto Express got to play Pierce Brosnan on the roof of the exhibition hall at the recent Tokyo Motor Show.
The Automatic Vehicle Operation System (AVOS) includes a camera for reading white lines, four lasers for spotting obstructions and two GPS sensors that can accurately locate the car to within one centimetre.
Instead of walking up to the Prius, we were handed a smartphone. “Are you sure you want to call the car?” it asked. We pressed yes, and the car obediently drove itself to us. Toyota is so confident
in its system that it chose not to have anyone sitting in the driver’s seat as a precaution.
We then got in the back and pressed “drive”. This is where our Bond fantasy ended, as the Prius instantly took control and drove itself around a small circuit, avoiding parked cars. The view ahead was shown on a screen, with obstacles overlaid by red markers.
The car does what we do as drivers: assess everything for potential danger. Except this Prius is programmed to never take its ‘eyes’ off the road. “The goal is to eliminate accidents,” the project’s leader Susumu Umemura told us.
He’s also enthusiastic about the valet parking potential of the tech. When we ordered the Prius back to its fairly tight spot between two cars, the benefits of this became clear. “Some people are not so good at parking. This may be a way to help them,” he said.
Full autonomy would also work on motorways, Umemura added. It’s easier to implement than auto driving in cities, but even that might not be far off as Toyota is also helping to devise a way for traffic lights to send status updates to cars.
Yet the intention isn’t to remove human input entirely. “We don’t anticipate a society where the driver does nothing,” Umemura said. He wouldn’t be drawn on cost or timing, but it’s clear that Toyota is very serious about this technology.