Photo: Toyota

Toyota announced the development of its new driver assistance technology at CES today called Toyota Guardian, which was modeled after the way pilots fly modern fighter jets to back up driver inputs with advanced vehicle safety features.

As Toyota describes Guardian, it’s a fully autonomous safety system that can scale back to a Level 2 system, which means there is an option for a human to be in control of the car at all times, but the car’s computer suite and safety features can take control of most of the vehicle’s functions in the event of a sudden dangerous incident.

Toyota calls it “blended envelope control,” where the car receives and executes the driver’s inputs and analyzes their intention, while also constantly detecting potential hazards.

It’s meant to be similar to the way modern fighter jets are flown, where the pilot’s inputs at the stick ultimately guide the plane while a suite of computers actually control the physical actions to execute the pilot’s intention.

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Toyota claims it used a three-car, no-injury incident one of its Research Institute development vehicles witnessed on a public street as a learning example. The incident was recreated with real cars at a testing ground. From Toyota:

The scenario was then re-created on the test track, using real vehicles and a guided, soft-target, dummy-vehicle. In this instance, Guardian’s best option was to quickly accelerate for daylight and away from encroaching vehicles. Here is a case where Guardian might avoid, or mitigate a collision for itself, while potentially doing the same for other nearby vehicles; in a way, an Altruistic Guardian.

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The system is not meant to be just an “on/off switch” of autonomy, but instead an ever-present backup when driving conditions break down. The automaker says Guardian is ultimately meant to be capable of operation in fully-autonomous mode, but also with the human control option with the autonomy running in the background.

The system’s main manufacturing focus is in the service mobility market, where it can be optioned on Toyota’s e-Palette vehicle platform that’s optimized for autonomous ride-sharing. The e-Palette platform is meant to be a blank canvas for other companies to purchase and install their own autonomous systems, but with the Guardian system acting as a redundancy.

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That part seems a little confusing, as it’s not clear who exactly would be interested in a testing platform that’s running two autonomous systems at once.

But if Guardian ever makes it into passenger cars, it’s nice to know that Toyota is still leaving room for the driver, and recognizes the “joy of just going for a drive.”