Toyota is confident that self-driving cars will play an important role in the future of the motoring industry but says no car manufacturers or technology companies are close to deploying ‘Level 5' systems.
While recently speaking with the Newcastle Herald, chief executive of Toyota’s global research division James Kuffner revealed that the Japanese car manufacturer is looking at how it must restrict the driver assistance systems it is developing.
"Suddenly you’re adding restrictions. It’s geo-fenced, it’s lighter traffic, it’s lower speed, it’s good weather,” he said. "We can do that now if you restrict it enough. We could deploy that today. So the real question is how much are you restricting it and whether or not that’s providing good value.”
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Kuffner was once part of the team at Google that helped develop its autonomous driving systems and is now in charge at the Toyota Research Institute. Toyota plans on introducing its latest Level 2 system next year dubbed 'ramp-to-ramp’ technology that will drive a vehicle without human intervention "from entrance to exit, with traffic merging capability" on the highway.
Toyota believes that by the late 2020s, it expects to have perfected autonomous driving on surface-level roads.
Kuffner added that recent "over-promising" from some companies about self-driving cars hitting the mainstream earlier than they actually will has dampened public perceptions about such technologies.
"Unfortunately, it isn’t that hard to make a demo … but it would be nowhere near a product. It’s very hard to sell a product to a customer. We try to let our products speak for themselves. People trust our brand and we want to ship a product that we feel confident in. So over-promising by other people does sometimes hurt us. But we will keep working and we do believe that this technology is going to have a huge impact," he said.