According to The Detroit News, Toyota is working on a new pre-crash system that will actually take control and steer the vehicle to minimize impact in the event of an unavoidable collision. The system combines super-sensitive radar with a camera array in the front fascia to detect possible impacts. On-board computers then calculate the correct levels of braking and steering required to avoid the crash, and if the driver fails to act, the automatic system takes over.
Like most manufacturers, Toyota has the admirable goal of reducing injuries and fatalities in its products to zero, though The Detroit News reports that the automaker wouldn't comment on when we could expect to see the innovations on the road. The pre-crash steering is specifically designed to reduce the chance of a vehicle-pedestrian impact, and Toyota is also working on systems to accommodate drivers who have heart attacks while behind the wheel.
It's true that vehicle fatalities have seen a steady decline over the past few years thanks to improved safety technology, but as cars get safer, drivers become even more detached from the task at hand. Economists call it a Jevons Paradox; drivers have effectively consumed the safety benefits supplied by car companies to become lazier and less safe than they would be without the tech. Maybe Toyota should find a way to force drivers to put down their phones, shut off their infotainment screens and simply drive. Just a thought.