Today, most automakers are racing to be the first to implement fully-autonomous driving into privately-owned passenger vehicles. However, Toyota seems to have other plans. Rather than implementing self-driving tech in privately owned vehicles, the Japanese automaker is said to feature the technology in commercial vehicles first.
According to a report by Reuters, Toyota is planning to first introduce self-driving technology in commercial vehicles before cars meant for personal use. These commercial vehicles include those used as fleet models, taxis and even on-demand ride services. James Kuffner, chief of Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, told Reuters that it would be easier to apply self-driving technology to these vehicles. The reason why is because such vehicles do not require constant and direct human monitoring. Operators of these vehicles could control when they are deployed and oversee their maintenance.
As for when self-driving technology will make it to personally owned vehicles, Kuffner says it will take time. No timeline was mentioned by the Toyota executive on when the autonomous tech would be introduced.
“It will take more time to achieve ‘Level 4’ for a personally-owned vehicle. Level 4 is really what we’re striving for to first appear in mobility as a service,” said Kuffner.
For reference, Level 4 autonomous vehicles are defined as fully autonomous models that can operate on their own without human intervention.
In the upcoming years, Toyota is set to roll out its first ‘Level 2’ autonomous vehicle, capable of driving itself on the highways. Unlike ‘Level 4’ vehicles, ‘Level 2’ vehicles are not fully autonomous just yet. They also rely on a human driver for the majority of the time.
Currently, most systems on the market require drivers to have their hands on the steering wheel in order to be active. These systems also can’t handle complex roads with intersections as well, fully depending on driver input.
While self-driving private cars may be a thing of the future still, autonomous commercial vehicles might be closer than we think.