In recent years, Toyota vehicles have been involved in a number high-profile accidents blamed on "unintended acceleration." And whether the root cause of these incidents boils down to driver error or faulty mechanicals, Toyota is working to address the issue.

One of two new systems in development at Toyota goes by the name of Intelligent Clearance Sonar. The technology is meant to reduce parking lot collisions by detecting objects out of the driver's sight. If an imminent collision is detected, the ICS system will automatically hit the brakes, reduce engine power and sound an alarm.

Toyota's other new safety system is Drive-Start Control. According to the automaker, if the system senses that the wrong gear has been selected from Park while the driver is pressing on the accelerator, a warning is flashed on the dashboard and engine output is reduced "to limit a sudden start or acceleration." There are a number of scenarios where the system might kick in – for example, if a driver bumps into something while reversing, panics and shifts into a forward gear without letting up on the accelerator, DSC would take over.

While such research is commendable, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has called for making such systems mandatory in coming years. And more and more automakers are investigating and/or committing to developing electronic failsafes to deal with unintended acceleration. Last month, Nissan announced a camera-based system designed to curb pedal misapplication.

Toyota says the systems will be available on future vehicles soon, a development that could give it a leg up on the competition if/when new federal rules are approved. Check out the official press release below.

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Toyota Readies New Technology For Safer Driving

New systems address common low and high speed collision risks

KEY POINTS
  1. Toyota produces new systems to help reduce common parking-speed collisions and high-speed rear-end shunts
  • Technology soon to be featured in Toyota production vehicles
  • Opening of new proving ground to test and evaluate Intelligent Transport Systems
  • New measures announced at Toyota's 2012 Safety Technology Seminar
Safer vehicles and the elimination of road accident injuries and deaths are central to Toyota's future transport strategy and at its annual Safety Seminar in Japan this week the company has revealed details of new technology to help prevent collisions – both familiar low-speed parking accidents and high-speed rear-end shunts.

It also has announced the opening of a new proving ground for testing Integrated Transport Systems (ITS) that use radio communications between vehicles, road infrastructure and pedestrians to improve safety.

Intelligent Clearance Sonar and Drive-start Control
A large number of collisions are caused by drivers hitting the wrong pedal or selecting the wrong gear, particularly when parking. Toyota has come up with two new systems to help reduce the consequences when this happens.

The Intelligent Clearance Sonar is able to detect obstacles that are outside the driver's line of sight and will automatically apply the brakes if there is a risk of a collision. Designed to be particularly useful when negotiating a car park, it will sound an alarm, reduce engine power and apply the brakes.

Drive-Start Control recognises if the wrong gear has been selected when the driver is applying the throttle. It will flash up a warning and reduce engine output to limit a sudden start or acceleration.

This can help, for example, when a driver reacts to hitting an object while reversing by making a quick shift to a forward gear while still pressing the accelerator pedal.

Toyota is set to introduce both systems in future vehicles.

Pre-Crash Safety system with Collision Avoidance Assist
Toyota has further developed its Pre-Crash Safety system with a collision avoidance function that can help reduce the consequences of rear-end impacts, even at high speeds.

This version of PCS – a technology already featured on a number of Toyota and Lexus models - uses a millimetre-wave radar to monitor the risk of collision with a vehicle ahead. If it detects an impact risk, it triggers an alarm and warning display to alert the driver to apply the brakes. When the brake pedal is pressed, the system will increase the braking force to up to twice the average level achieved by drivers**.

This can slow the vehicle down by up to 37mph* (60km/h). If the driver fails to step on the brakes, the system will automatically deliver deceleration*** of between nine and 19mph****.

Toyota's analysis of traffic accident data shows that more than 90 per cent of rear-end collisions happen when the difference in speed between two vehicles is within 37mph, so it set out to engineer a system based on this intelligence to deliver industry-leading safety performance. Already, the technology is being prepared for use in forthcoming models.

* Calculated from US accident data.
** When the driver's car is travelling at 50mph (80km/h) and the vehicle ahead at 12.5mph (20km/h).
*** Automatic deceleration at speeds of 9mph and higher.
**** When the driver's car is travelling at 31mph (50km/h) and the car ahead at 12.5mph (20km/h). Operation may be affected by road and weather conditions.

Intelligent Transport System proving ground
Toyota has opened a new proving ground to test and evaluate its Intelligent Transport System technology. The site extends over 3.5 hectares at the Higashi-Fuji Technical Centre, creating a simulated city centre road system, complete with traffic signals.

It will allow Toyota to test a system for road-to-vehicle communications using a 700Mhz radio frequency in controlled but authentic traffic conditions. This transmission band has been approved by the Japanese government for ITS use, as it has the right reception breadth and quality to be suitable for connecting with vehicles at junctions and other locations where a driver's view may be limited.

When the proving ground is fully operational, Toyota will accelerate its research and development of environmental systems to improve fuel efficiency and driver support systems that can help reduce the risk of accidents with pedestrians and other road users in urban traffic.
Toyota is also undertaking R&D of systems that allow for a continuous exchange of road-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-vehicle and pedestrian-to-vehicle information.