Toyota 'Guardian Angel' system takes the wheel to prevent wrecks

There are human-driven cars, and there are autonomous cars, and between them lie a halfway-there zone in which human-operated cars are equipped with smart control systems. One example of such a system is Toyota's 'Guardian Angel,' a technology being developed that will take the wheel when necessary to prevent a crash, saving humans from circumstances beyond their control or, perhaps, their own momentary lapse in attention.

The new technology was detailed by Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt at a conference earlier today; the technology will be tested using a simulator (shown above) located in Japan. This simulator will take the technology through realistic virtual streets, physically moving around within a big warehouse-type hangar.

Among other things, Toyota will have drivers in place to gauge their reactions when the 'guardian angel' takes control of the steering wheel. It is an interesting twist on current technologies, one that results in so-called partial autonomy — the car is self-driving in the sense that it is aware of its surroundings and able to take over. It doesn't do so, however, unless it senses that the human driver is doing something that puts them both — human and car — at risk.

In addition to the guardian angel technology, Toyota will be building a new TRI facility nearby the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. That facility will eventually have about 50 employees, and will work with researchers at the university to develop robotic and autonomic technologies (related to cars). In addition, the facility will be tasked with testing car prototypes (along with two other already-existing research facilities), doing so using the testing ground called "MCity."

SOURCE: MIT Technology Review