BY BRAD ANDERSON
Toyota president and chief executive Akio Toyoda has expressed concerns about the rapid development of autonomous driving systems after one of the company’s e-Palette vehicles hit an athlete during the 2020 Paralympic Games.
The incident occurred on August 26 when the autonomous vehicle struck a visually impaired pedestrian. Fortunately, it was only traveling at around 1 mph and the athlete wasn’t injured. Toyoda apologized after the accident and expressed a contrarian view of such self-driving systems.
“I don’t think it’s at all realistic yet that self-driving cars can travel normally on ordinary roads,” he said.
While speaking in a video after the accident, Toyoda questioned the ongoing race to produce vehicles with Level 5 fully-autonomous driving systems.
“There is this pressure on carmakers to be the first to release Level 5 vehicles but I have been saying that we should not jump onto such a bandwagon,” he said.
Toyota quickly investigated the Paralympic Games accident and made a number of changes before resuming operations of the e-Palette. For example, each driverless vehicle was equipped with a second back-up driver while the Olympic and Paralympic committees also increased the number of guides at intersections through the Olympic village.
As Auto News notes, this isn’t the first time that Akio Toyoda has cast a critical view on one of the most important developments in the automotive industry. Earlier this year, Toyoda lamented the growing hype around electric vehicles and claimed that Japan would run out of electricity in the summer if all vehicles in the country were electric.