According to Tesla, General Motors and Mercedez-Benz, driverless cars are coming soon, but the head of Toyota USA thinks those claims are being exaggerated.
Speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Box program yesterday, Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz was asked bluntly about the when autonomous cars will arrive.
“Not in my lifetime,” he declared.
A buzzkill to futurists, Lentz commented that recent statements by several of Toyota’s competitors as well as those in the tech sector, that autonomous cars will be ready by 2020 were highly optimistic. “I think that may have been overpromising,” he said.
Lentz then went on to describe Toyota’s vision of autonomous vehicles, describing them as a copilot. “An airplane can fly itself, but you don’t want the pilot sitting in the first row having lunch.” The same concept is what Toyota envisions for cars.
“We see autonomous cars as being able to enhance the skill level of drivers,” he said. “Through technology they’ll be able to see better, they’ll be able to stop faster, they’ll be able to react better.”
While this technology won’t make for robotic chauffeurs, Toyota sees it as an answer to our aging populations, enabling people to drive much later in their lives.
Earlier this week rival Nissan announced it had obtained the first license plate for a Leaf EV equipped with a “highly advanced driver assist system” so it can begin road tests. While not fully autonomous, it is equipped with impressive technologies like lane keeping, automatic lane change, automatic overtaking, automatic deceleration and automatic stopping at red lights. The Leaf wears the plates “2020” in reference to the date Nissan hopes to achieve its goal.