Jim Lentz Speaks Out On Vehicle Autonomy


The Detroit Bureau

When the future arrives and we’re all driving/riding in autonomous cars, the Toy­ota badge may not be on the side of your ride, says Jim Lentz, Toy­ota North Amer­ica CEO.

Find out where Toy­ota stands when it comes to self-driving cars.

Toyota’s Jim Lentz says Toyota’s ver­sion of autonomous vehi­cles will improve driver’s abil­ity, not take over the entire process.

When the future finally gets here and we’re all dri­ving, or rid­ing in, autonomous cars, the Toy­ota badge may not be on the side of your ride, accord­ing to Jim Lentz, Toy­ota North Amer­ica CEO.

The Japan­ese car­mak­ers’ plans for autonomous vehi­cles fall more into the realm of help­ing dri­vers improve their skills rather than allow­ing dri­vers to sit back and read the paper while the vehi­cle does the work.

“We view autonomous cars a lit­tle dif­fer­ently than some oth­ers. We really see it as a co-pilot type car, not as a self-driving car,” Lentz, the first Amer­i­can to head Toyota’s vast oper­a­tions in the NAFTA region, told the Asso­ci­ated Press. “A car that can really enhance the reflexes and the abil­ity of a dri­ver to con­tinue to drive. That’s why I’m excited about those cars. As we look at boomers and they start to retire, the abil­ity to have cars that can enhance their capa­bil­i­ties, it’s going to allow them to drive much longer.”

Toyota’s dri­ver­less car tech­nol­ogy has an advanced cruise-control sys­tem that uses wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tion with nearby vehi­cles to deter­mine a safe dis­tance to fol­low. The com­pany also uses a lane-monitoring tech­nol­ogy that allows the steer­ing wheel to keep to its high­way lane. The com­pany recently began test­ing the technology.

The focus on improv­ing tech­nol­ogy in cars and trucks is result­ing in a two-track approach to using it. The first is the afore­men­tioned efforts related to safety, such as adap­tive cruise con­trol, the sec­ond is for dri­ver con­ve­nience, such as info­tain­ment. Ensur­ing Toyota’s con­sid­ered a leader in that arena means devel­op­ing sys­tems that are appeal­ing to a wide buyer base, espe­cially younger buy­ers who do not feel the same com­pul­sion to own a vehi­cle as pre­vi­ous generations.

“The tech­nol­ogy we put in cars has to be very, very intu­itive so that it’s sim­ple to use for elder gen­er­a­tions but enough techno for younger gen­er­a­tions,” Lentz said. “But younger gen­er­a­tions, I don’t think they’re nec­es­sar­ily amazed with tech­nol­ogy. It’s a tool to them.”