Speaking at the company's advanced safety seminar in Ypsilanti, MI, Thursday morning, Seigo Kuzumaki, Toyota's deputy chief safety technology officer, said that Toyota envisions a future driving environment that optimizes the best of both humans and computers, not choosing one over the other.
"Toyota's main objective is safety, so it will not be developing a driverless car," he said.
"Toyota's main objective is safety, so it will not be developing a driverless car." – Seigo Kuzumaki
While other companies like, say, Google, anticipate a driverless car future, Kuzumaki and other Toyota executives said they're not sold on the fact driverless cars will be a marketable product to a wide base of consumers. Even if motorists were eager to accept such a hands-off driving approach, they're not sure the technology is ready.
"At this moment, it is difficult to realize the driverless car safely," said Ken Koibuchi, head of Toyota's intelligent vehicle division. "To realize driverless car at this moment, we need a very rich infrastructure."
The company said it is involved in 34 different projects with 17 partners, some of which are examining development of vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. At least for now, they believe the future holds a collaborative driving experience between humans and computers, one that means drivers won't necessarily be tending to other tasks in their vehicles anytime soon.
"I think Toyota's approach is opposite of that," said Kristen Tabar, a vice president at Toyota's Technical Center. She later added that humans and computers both have weaknesses. They can augment each other; but not make one obsolete.
"The human being is the ultimate in sensor fusion," she said. "We have the visual, audible advantage, all the different inputs to make the best judgments moving forward."