The numerous electronic systems now available in new cars are generally viewed as crucial to increasing safety, and paving the way for what is theoretically the ultimate safety tech: autonomous driving. But what impact is this technology really having?
That's what Toyota aims to find out. The Japanese automaker is launching 11 research projects to explore the affect of new and emerging technologies on safety. Toyota is working with eight research institutions, including MIT and the University of Michigan, on the projects, which are being launched under a new initiative called "Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center Next."
Each project will have its own specific focus, but the overall program will follow four so-called "research tracks." The first involves integration of advanced active and passive safety systems, including "using advanced pre-crash sensors to improve and personalize crash protection," according to Toyota. The second research track will focus on the driver-vehicle relationship and social acceptance of new safety tech, while the third and fourth research tracks will focus on driver physiology and "Big Data," respectively.
Individual research projects will dive deeper into these topics. For example, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute will specifically look at the responses of "minimally aware" adults to autonomous emergency braking on a test track, while researchers at the University of Iowa will try to estimate the potential reduction in injuries and fatalities from an adaptive headlight system that highlights pedestrians and cyclists.
The research could provide valuable insight into the effect of new safety technologies. When it comes to tech, the general assumption is that more is better. But it's important to confirm that assumption with empirical data.