make driving safer by stepping in when human drivers are making an error, while a separate system known as Chauffeur would serve as a so-called “L4 and L5” fully autonomous solution.
Toyota’s approach differs from those of some automakers that want to go directly to L4 and L5, James said. “Toyota is saying that full autonomy is not the only way to leverage this technology,” he told Design News . “We should be deploying it earlier, only stepping in at those times when the human is making a mistake.”
James contends that news reports of self-driving vehicles give the public the idea that full autonomy is closer than it really is. Full autonomy, he says, requires that vehicles can handle that last 0.01%. “What we’re seeing is a real acceleration in the early days,” he said. “But as we get to the long tail, things will drag out slower than people hope.”
James, who has been working on autonomous systems since Toyota began its effort in 2005, understands the challenges of engineering a self-driving vehicle. After earning a B.S. in computer science from Michigan Tech University, he went on to get M.S. and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with a special focus on machine learning and intelligent systems. His work in autonomous vehicle systems is a natural outgrowth of those studies, he said.
For James, the big question is when the world will be ready for adoption of autonomous technology. Today, more than 32,000 people annually die in the U.S. due to vehicle crashes caused by humans, but many in the auto industry believe that the public will be less accepting of traffic fatalities caused by machine error, even if the overall fatality numbers are lower.
The Toyota two-pronged approach might save lives, even as the debate over such matters rages, he said. “This technology has the potential to change the world,” James told us. “And we’re committed to making the vision a reality.”
Systems Engineer Smoothes Integration of New Head-Up Display
Ford engineer Anthony King spearheaded the effort to put a groundbreaking HUD in new Lincolns.
Ford engineer Anthony King orchestrated the addition of a first-ever head-up display for Lincoln luxury cars. (Source: Ford Motor Co.)
When Ford engineers floated the idea of a groundbreaking new head-up display (HUD) for the company’s luxury vehicles back in 2011, it first seemed like a good idea. Then reality set in.
“Somebody asked, ‘Why don’t we do a big HUD?’ recalled Anthony King, Ford’s development lead. “But the quick response was that nobody at Ford wanted to do it because it was so hard.”
Indeed, the idea of adding a shoebox-sized projection display behind the instrument cluster appeared, at first, daunting. That’s because that area was already claimed by wiring, ducts, brackets and cross-car beams. Engineers referred to the territory as “Manhattan real estate” – too crowded and too valuable for the addition of, well, anything.
“We were trying to squeeze a very large box into an area that had no extra space to begin with,” King recalled.