- Associated Press - Thursday, July 21, 2011

SUSONO, JAPAN (AP) - Toyota is developing a safety technology that takes control of the steering so the vehicle can veer away when it isn’t able to stop before impact.

Toyota Motor Corp. showed some of its up and coming safety innovations in a demonstration to reporters Thursday at its facility in this town, west of Tokyo, near Mount Fuji.

All the world’s automakers are working on special safety technology in an effort to woo customers, as competition intensifies among manufacturers already neck-and-neck in delivering the regular features for their products.

Cars that stop or slow down automatically before an object or person in anticipation of a possible crash are not new. But Toyota’s latest pre-collision system adds a steering-control feature.


In the new system, Toyota uses cameras and a super sensitive radar called “millimeter-wave,” both installed in the front of the vehicle, to detect possible crashes such as a pedestrian crossing the road.

The vehicle calculates how braking and steering must be applied to avoid a crash, said chief safety technology officer Moritaka Yoshida.

“We must learn from accidents and keep making improvements in safety features,” he said.

The Japanese automaker declined to say when the feature may be offered on a commercial model, or in which markets, but officials hinted it was ready to be offered soon.

Toyota said it was aiming for zero fatalities and injuries, although it did not say when that goal would be achieved.

Fatalities have been declining in auto accidents, because of better safety features, but deaths among pedestrians in traffic accidents have not gone down in Japan.

Protecting pedestrians is increasingly key, according to Toyota, which makes the Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury models.

Toyota showed what is called a pop-up hood, which rises slightly in a crash, to mitigate the impact of a pedestrian getting hit by a car, similar to features offered by European makers.

It also showed how parts of the rays from high-beam headlights could be blocked so that drivers could still see clearly what was ahead while headlights would appear to be on low beam to the driver in a car coming from the other direction.

Toyota also showed a steering wheel in development that measures the heartbeat of the driver to prevent crashes that can happen when drivers suffer heart attacks.