Toyota to Reveal ‘Self Driving Car’ Research

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(Photo Credit: William Walker/CNN)

By Peter Valdes-Dapena

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Toyota will offer a glimpse into its self-driving car research on Monday, just ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas.

The Japanese automaker recently revealed a five-second video of a Lexus-based research vehicle carrying a device similar to that used on Google’s so-called self-driving car. Unlike Google’s car, however, Toyota’s research also involves vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, the automaker said in an announcement.

Those technologies allow cars to wirelessly communicate with one another and with things like traffic lights and stop signs. For example, a car could signal vehicles around it when it stops or turns or when it encounters a slippery road surface. Similarly, a traffic light could wirelessly signal that it is turning red so approaching cars can automatically apply their brakes.

The automaker will also exhibit a Lexus car with advanced pre-crash safety systems. A number of automakers, including Lexus, already offer systems that can signal drivers, apply brakes and even close windows when sensors detect that a collision is imminent.

Among the features of autonomously driven cars available in automobiles today, especially high-end luxury cars, is “active cruise control,” which can automatically maintain a safe following distance behind cars. Some of these systems can even work in stop-and-go traffic, automatically applying the brakes and accelerator as needed.

German automaker Audi, part of the Volkswagen Group, is also expected to make its own announcement regarding autonomously driven cars at the show.

By eliminating human error, which causes the vast majority of car crashes, autonomous driving technology is seen as having the potential to greatly reduce traffic deaths on America’s roadways.

Automakers generally prefer to use the term “autonomous driving” rather “self-driving” for these technologies because, even in the future, a human driver should remain at the controls of a vehicle, ready to take over as needed.