In a small region of Japan’s main island known as the Shizuoka Prefecture – one still rebuilding from recent earthquakes – sits an industrial estate on which the future is being written. It’s the site of the facility where Toyota tests its newest technology, and this week is no different; on grounds mocked up to resemble busy city streets, a fleet of cars are communicating with each other to anticipate traffic jams, pedestrian hotspots and potential accidents.
The 'streets' on the site of the Intelligent Transport System are installed with tech that sends and receives information to and from the cars that pass through – information that’s also passed on between the cars which can then tell the driver what lies ahead. For example, an image of a pedestrian crossing the road will flash up on on-board screens to allow the driver ample time to brake to let them pass. It’s hoped that these developments will make a full transfer for testing on Japanese roads within the next couple of years, and – if successful – could see a rollout for testing on American roads after that. This and other technology is aimed at making life easier for drivers; systems such as the ‘live’ updates to your GPS navigational system on heavy traffic once began life in similar circumstances and now enjoy a lot of use from thousands of drivers per day, around the world. Another new system that’s becoming more affordable in cars is the onboard computer – it was once something reserved for science fiction to have drivers verbally issuing their cars with instructions but now thanks to systems like Renault’s R-Link, it’s possible to use voice-activated commands for some functions, such as making a phone call without the distraction of using your hands.
With the remote control mounted onto the steering wheel it’s also possible to get weather updates from your destination, and even to switch the radio station to something a bit more upbeat to sing along with in the car. So it goes to show that developing technology can have a positive effect on all aspects of driving – from showing care for other drivers, to making your own drive more convenient and safe, to being able to chat with a friend or crank up your favourite tunes!