Learning about a vehicle’s newest feature or an automaker’s new global vehicle platform can be hard to comprehend. Not everyone can easily understand the new features or upgrades from the old platform just from reading a brochure or sitting through a PowerPoint presentation. This is particularly true when numbers are thrown into the mix. Simply put, it’s hard to see the changes if there’s nothing to compare with; in the case of safety features, when there’s no demonstration being shown.
In order to give us a better understanding of how the TNGA platform handles and how their new Toyota Safety Sense system works, Toyota Motor Philippines, together with Toyota Motor Asia Pacific, recently invited us to a test drive and ride-along session at Clark International Speedway.
The day started with a short classroom session that helped us get a basic understanding of how the new Toyota Safety Sense works, and how the TNGA platform performs compared to the previous platform used. But it was during the afternoon sessions where we actually learned about the safety features and how their new platform performed.
Starting with Toyota Safety Sense, the new system is currently available only on the Corolla Altis Hybrid and the Super Grandia Elite. The system works by using a camera mounted on the windshield together with a radar hidden behind the emblem or grill (in case of the Super Grandia Elite).
Admittedly, it is probably the most advanced safety system offered in our market today. While most automakers offer simple lane detection and lane keep assist, think of Toyota Safety Sense’s Lane Departure Alert as a highly upgraded version of those systems. Apart from detecting solid and broken lines on the road, the system can also detect the difference between road and grass/mud. As a result, even when you’re driving on a road without any lines or markings, the system can still detect and warn the driver if you’re drifting too far off to one side.
Aside from warning the driver of the car’s potentially dangerous position, we learned that Lane Departure Alert also adjusts the vehicle’s direction minutely. In particular, it ever so slightly points the vehicle to the opposite direction in order for it to stay in the proper lane. However, the majority of the input is still required from the driver. Or, he can turn on Lane Tracing Assist to make life easier.
Lane Tracing Assist is essentially a step above Toyota Safety Sense’s Lane Departure Alert. The feature is relatively easy to use too, and acts just like a cruise control function. It works similar to how you would operate most vehicles’ cruise control systems by pressing a button on the steering wheel. Unlike most cruise control systems that require the vehicle to be driving at speed to activate, Lane Tracing Assist works even when you’re at a stop. Doing so from a standstill would automatically set the minimum speed to 30 km/h. It even works when there are small curves on the road it is following.
Aside from tracing the lane (as its name implies), the system also detects vehicles in front. What’s more impressive is that it can actually “lane keep” even if there are no lines or markings on the road anymore. Instead of following the road, the system follows the car ahead of it. At slow speeds, the system also turns the wheel automatically should the car in front makes a slight turn. We were told it can’t make big turns, but it is a very impressive feat nonetheless. Even if the vehicle in front comes to a complete stop, the system continues running. It also will automatically move the vehicle for the driver if they only stop for a few seconds.
The only time Lane Tracing Alert doesn’t work is when the driver takes his hands off the wheel. As Toyota implies, it’s not a self-driving technology but rather a driver assistance technology. At the end of the day, the driver still needs to be in control.
Though Lane Departure Alert and Lane Tracing Assist are very helpful in driving, it’s the pre-collision system that actually reduces the chance of occupants getting into an accident. It works by having an audible and visual display alert. If the driver ignores both warnings and still does not brake, the system will automatically apply the brakes for them. Toyota Safety Sense pre-collision system also applies more braking power when the driver is not braking hard enough.
Moving on to their TNGA platform test, we were able to drive two vehicles (one being a TNGA model and the other a non-TNGA model), one after the other, on a set course to see the differences. The TNGA model in question was a current-generation Prius. Meanwhile, the other was a previous-generation Corolla Altis 2.0 V.
If we asked you which one handled better on track, most would probably say the Corolla. But, surprisingly it was the Prius that rode better and handled better. The most obvious change can be felt through the body roll, or lack thereof in the Prius. Going at the same pace, there was also less steering input needed to take on the course in the Prius as opposed to the Altis.
In a real world scenario, the TNGA platform offers smoother acceleration off the line and more comfort on the road. Visibility has been greatly improved as well with a lower dashboard, thinner A-pillars, and better positioned side mirrors. Currently, the vehicles using the TNGA platform offered by TMP are the Corolla, RAV4, Camry, and Prius.
Toyota might be a bit late to the party offering such safety systems locally, but they sure have done it better than most automakers. Unfortunately, only two models and their top-end variants get Toyota Safety Sense at the moment. Hopefully, however, we get to see the safety feature on more models in the future. As for TNGA models, thankfully we have four options to choose from. In the future, we will likely see these features and a version of this platform trickle down to the more affordable models such as the Vios and Innova.