Toyota has announced several new autonomous-driving technologies, including self-driving systems for highway travel and a pedestrian avoidance system.

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I love living in the future. Nissan recently announced that they believed autonomous cars would hit the road next decade, but Toyota seems determined to make it happen sooner. They have just announced two new autonomous-driving technologies that will debut in five years, making the steering wheel one step closer to being redundant.

The core technology they’re developing is called Automated Highway Driving Assist (AHDA), which consists of two features: Cooperative-adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Trace Control.In addition, they’ll be launching Pedestrian-avoidance Steer Assist by 2015.

You may be surprised that Toyota is announcing adaptive cruise control as a new technology since similar systems have been around for a while now, but Toyota has made some improvements. Traditionally, radar or stereoscopic cameras will detect the speed of the traffic ahead of you, and if your cruise control is set to a higher speed, it’ll automatically slow down. The new system will also incorporate transceivers: Two cars using the same system will be able to communicate with each other, exchanging information more accurately than a camera could manage.

Adding to this feature, Toyota’s Lane Trace control uses cameras and sensors to steer the car and ensure it’s staying nice and centered in the lane during highway travel. Mercedes uses a similar technology in the new S-class

The Pedestrian Avoidance Steer Assist builds on existing technologies as well, but takes it one step further. The car’s sensors will scan for pedestrians that are in the path of the car. Audio and visual alerts will advise the driver to stop, and if they fail to do so, the car’s breaks will be applied. If the car realizes it won’t be able to stop in time, it will commandeer the vehicle and steer out of the way.

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This may be your last chance to enjoy some good old vehicular homicide before the machines take over.

These are exciting technologies, but they had better be well designed. The last thing we want is for the car to remove control from us when we don’t want it to. I wouldn’t be a happy camper if the sensors on my car broke and it dodged a pedestrian who wasn’t there, sending me into a lamp post… or for that matter, what if I wanted to kill myself by driving into a brick wall and the car won’t let me? Joking aside, there are some concerns for technology like this: The car responds, but can’t think on its own and evaluate whether you know what you’re doing, despite a perceived danger. Do you really want a co-driver grabbing the wheel suddenly? They had better be a really good driver.

Via CNET