As Toyota President Akio Toyoda has said, “the automotive industry is facing sweeping, once-in-a-century changes.” They are driven by innovations in four technology categories - Connected, Automated, Shared and Electrified - each with its own challenges and opportunities.
For automated driving, the challenges include complex technical problems in perception, prediction, and planning, and a range of social, ethical, and policy issues for citizens, regulators and lawmakers to consider.
While it is simpler to focus on technical issues, it is the social, ethical, and policy challenges facing automated driving that are the most difficult. Since no technology can predict human behavior perfectly, some crashes will still occur wherever automated vehicles travel the same roads with human-driven vehicles and pedestrians. Even if automated driving technology can be made, on average, much safer than human driving, it may be difficult for society to accept the remaining inevitable injuries and fatalities when an automated vehicle is involved in a crash.
Of course, society has faced similar questions before. In medicine, for example, it is sometimes necessary for patients to risk adverse outcomes in pursuit of the greater good. We have, in general, come to accept those trade-offs, so there is reason to hope that a similar understanding could evolve for automated vehicles. But going for a drive is not the same as fighting a life-threatening illness. Traffic crashes are sufficiently rare to conceal the safety benefits of automated driving. Societal acceptance will likely take time and will not be easy.
As a result, some may ask why any company would take on the challenge of developing an automated driving system. For Toyota, two of the most compelling reasons are: 1) Automated driving technology offers the chance to dramatically reduce the more than one million human-driven traffic fatalities that occur around the world every year. 2) Automated driving technology could provide mobility for a rapidly growing segment of society - the elderly - for whom loss of mobility leads to loss of independence and lower quality of life. As we have seen since Toyota first began researching automated driving in the 1990s, we continue to see the technology’s potential to help everyone get where they want and need to be...safely.
We hope that the public shares our belief that mobility can be a source of inspiration, and that automated driving offers the chance to share joy in the experience of driving and a way to improve quality of life for everyone. Most importantly, because risk can never be completely eliminated, we hope the public will work with us as partners in the development of automated driving technology in order to improve the safety, availability of mobility and, in turn, quality of life, for as many people as possible.
DR. GILL PRATT
Executive Fellow, Toyota Motor Corporation
Chief Executive Officer, Toyota Research Institute
As we have seen since Toyota first began researching automated driving in the 1990s, we continue to see the technology’s potential to help everyone get where they want and need to be...safely.