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Fully autonomous driving in cities in just eight years says Toyota

AOL Cars UK logo AOL Cars UK 09/10/2017 Staff writer

File photo dated 04/08/16 of a Toyota car badge. Uncertainty over Brexit could jeopardise future investment in the UK by Toyota, a senior executive at the carmaker warned. © Provided by AOL Cars UK File photo dated 04/08/16 of a Toyota car badge. Uncertainty over Brexit could jeopardise future investment in the UK by Toyota, a senior executive at the carmaker warned. "So you want to know how quickly change can happen?" asks Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute. "The question we should be asking is how quickly we can go from 1.3 million deaths a year on the roads to zero."

That's Toyota's vision of a future not too far away. The company claims that totally autonomous driving, free of any human intervention, will become commonplace in major cities like New York and London by 2025. In fact, the brand is busy testing the model that will become its first fully autonomous car – the Lexus LS.

Toyota's timeline is laid out over that period. By 2020, the brand claims it will have cars with so-called 'Level 2' autonomy. That means that although the car's onboard computers can operate the steering, accelerator and brakes, the vehicle requires human input and cannot be left to its own devices for more than a few seconds at a time.

But by 2025, Toyota will have cars operating with 'Level 4' autonomy. Level 4 cars operate themselves the majority of the time, requiring driver intervention only in extreme circumstances.

Toyota's vision is not of automation for comfort, or so that passengers can do other things while they travel. Instead, it is looking to self-driving cars to totally eliminate urban accidents and road traffic fatalities. It says that the case that should be stated is one for "cars so clever that they cannot collide with each other or those driven by humans".

To help achieve this, Toyota has called in six top European universities to help. Researchers from Cambridge University, University College London and four others are all focussing on different areas, meeting challenges along the way.

"It is extremely difficult to replicate human reasoning," said Pratt. "We do not have an AI system that has human reasoning. We do not know how to do it.

"We can write traffic rules into the AI software, but there is also learning to be done. If you obey the traffic rules in Rome, you will be safe, but you won't get anywhere."

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