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.”




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