TOKYO -- Automakers showcased vehicles equipped with the latest technology at the ITS World Congress Tokyo 2013 this week as they compete to put autonomous car driving systems into practical use.
If research and development on such safe-driving systems progress, the use of autonomous cars is expected to reduce the number of accidents and ease traffic congestion. Some automakers view the challenge as an opportunity to make the most of their advanced technological capabilities to attract future customers.
The model unveiled by Toyota Motor Corp. at the ITS (intelligent transportation system) show is able to maintain a safe distance between two cars if both have the same system installed. According to the automaker, the car behind detects changes in speed in the car in front through a wireless communication system and maintains an appropriate distance. The system steers automatically and takes the most suitable course after detecting cars running nearby and traffic lanes through onboard radar and camera.
As the model is intended for use on expressways, the automaker conducted a demonstration drive on the Metropolitan Expressway for the ITS event.
Toyota plans to sell new models equipped with the autonomous driving system around 2015. If other automakers adopt the system, it may help prevent rear-end collisions and ease traffic jams.
Honda Motor Co. also revealed its prototype of an autonomous car for the first time. While in movement, the vehicle gathers location information on pedestrians from their smartphones and brakes automatically when there is danger of collision. Honda has yet to decide when the vehicle will be put into practical use.
Automakers are increasing the number of new models equipped with safety systems aimed at avoiding collisions. Competition has thus intensified over how to improve the precision of their respective systems. Each system gathers information on the surrounding area and brakes automatically when vehicles are at risk of colliding with a person or an object, or when the vehicle gets dangerously close to vehicles in front of it.
At the congress, other automakers, such as Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and German automaker BMW AG, also had displays and conducted trial demonstrations of the safety system.
The focus from now is not only on the development of specific technologies by individual companies, but also whether a communications system can be standardized.