In a surprise announcement, Toyota says it is not going to bet the farm on self-driving cars.
Since the loudest voices are applauding, and dare I say rushing, the arrival of fully autonomous vehicles—read the U.S. government, Tesla, and Google to name a few—Toyota’s announcement is one of those moments that makes you take notice.
The reasons, detailed in the article, for Toyota’s lack of enthusiasm for autonomy are simple. First, Toyota feels that while 39,000 yearly traffic deaths caused by humans is one thing, that number of deaths caused by autonomous vehicles is quite another. Can you say pitchforks and torches if self-drivers had even 15,000 traffic fatalities?
If you listen to the self-driver echo chamber, autonomous vehicles will be our savior.
Toyota disagrees, which brings us to the second reason for the decision. According to Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, “none of us in the automobile or IT industries are close to achieving true Level 5 autonomy,” which is why Toyota is investing in human driven cars for the next few years.
For the record, Pratt isn’t just some Toyota business exec. Dr. Pratt, if you please, has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from MIT and worked at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from 2010 until 2015 where he focused on robotics and intelligent systems. Street cred? He has it.
And where did Pratt say this? At CES of all places. Last year CES was all about autonomous driver tech. Talk about making a statement.
I went for a ride at CES in a connected, autonomous concept vehicle and it seems that despite all the hype and “things are going well line” being fed to us at all levels there are still some serious bugs that need fixing and issues that need to be solved before we roll out Level 5 autonomous vehicles and proclaim victory.
I am being honest and calling the situation for what it is—not quite there yet.
What a concept.
Earlier this week at CES Chrysler debuted its Millenial-minded concept, the Portal.
One of the features FCA seems most proud of is the camera that can take selfies for the people in the car, including the driver. This is stupid.
Maybe instead of indulging people’s vanities with this idea, Chrysler should have focused on, oh, I don’t know the cyber security of their vehicles or a shifter that doesn’t allegedly kill people. Just saying.
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach® is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. Post your comments on Twitter: @LaurenFix or on her Facebook Page.
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