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Driver assistance systems appear set to benefit from advances in artificial intelligence developments in the next five years, according to Toyota in a Reuters report. The integration of AI aims to improve vehicle safety by enabling vehicles to anticipate and avoid potential accidents, said CEO of Toyota Research Institute Dr Gill Pratt. To that end, TRI will spend US$1 billion (RM4 billion) over that duration.

Pratt says the first AI systems will likely be safety features developed for Lexus and Toyota models. Toyota has already set a goal to develop cars with the ability to drive themselves on highways in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo – such an achievement would require vehicles to think, act and take some control from drivers to perform evasive manoeuvres.

“Some of the things that are in car safety, which is a near-term priority, I’m very confident that we will have some advances come out during the next five years,” he said.

While most current systems employ sensors to avoid obstacles directly in the vehicle’s path, TRI was looking at AI solutions to enable “the car to be evasive beyond the one lane.” Pratt added, “The intelligence of the car would figure out a plan for evasive action… Essentially [it would] be like a guardian angel, pushing on the accelerators, pushing on the steering wheel, pushing on the brake in parallel with you.”

In fact, Toyota has already showcased such technology with the Highway Teammate system, utilising a millimetre wave radar, a light detection and ranging sensor (LIDAR) and a camera to provide autonomous driving on highways. The concept version, a modified Lexus GS, was showcased on the Tokyo Shuto Expressway during the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show last year – and you can watch it in action in the video above.

However, Pratt also cautioned: “It is very important to understand that what we are doing has high risk and that some of our efforts will not be entirely successful but we expect some of them to be very successful.”

Beyond the present, Pratt believes greater advances will be seen. Fully automated vehicles will come to reality, and on that note, Pratt believes that such cars will one day be safe enough to be used by children without needing parents to drive.