#CES2017: Toyota put the breaks on fully autonomous vehicles

Automakers "not even close" to fully autonomous cars, according to one Toyota executive

As predicted, cars played a key part at the Consumer Electronics Show 2017. CES is seen as the place where the future is announced. People imagine Jetson-like technology on show and driverless cars roaming around the place – but Toyota seem to have put the breaks on the notion of fully autonomous cars in the immediate future.  

It was actually quite refreshing to hear Gill Pratt of the Toyota Research Institute saying that the entire motor industry is “not even close” to launching fully autonomous Level 5 cars. He said it will take decades to have a significant portion of US cars operate at Level 4 autonomy or higher.

Level 5 autonomy means no steering wheel, no brakes, and no human driver required. Pratt’s remarks certainly aren’t in line with what most other automotive companies have said. Recently, for example, Ford said it would mass-produce Level 5 vehicles by 2021, and Tesla said its Level 5 cars will be ready in 2018.

The reason for Pratt’s comments, however, makes pretty good sense to me. He said part of the problem is humans have historically had little to no tolerance for injuries and deaths caused by machines. Pratt said Toyota isn’t content with self-driving cars being as safe as humans. Being twice as safe isn’t acceptable either. 

So we’ll have to watch this space.

Concept-i

Pratt made the comments at the unveiling of their new Concept-i car. It's a compact vehicle that features an AI system called Yui. They say Yui makes driving safe whilst allowing the drive to maintain full control of the vehicle. Toyota say Yui can measure human emotion and even help by completing certain tasks such as turning the radio on or engage in conversation. 

Yui will only take control of the car in the case of an upcoming accident.