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.”