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Safety Matters

Advanced crash avoidance technology finds its way into production vehicles in Japan.

With the launch of the remodeled Crown Majesta last month, Toyota Motor has taken its safety program to a new level.

The Crown Majesta is the first Toyota production vehicle to be equipped with Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM).
The luxury sedan, flagship of the automaker’s revamped domestic sales organization, is equipped with two all-new safety systems: VDIM (for Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management) and a pre-crash radar system that integrates millimeter-wave radar with a CCD camera. Other advanced safety features on the car include lane-keeping assist, near-infrared night vision and adaptive-front lighting.

VDIM, an evolution of Toyota’s vehicle stability control system, integrates anti-lock braking, electronic-power steering and traction control. The automaker says the system is the first of its kind. Analysts expect the technology to be adopted next on the Toyota’s Lexus lineup.

Senior research executive Tetsuo Hattori explains that previous braking, steering, vehicle stability and traction control systems functioned independently. “With VDIM, each system is integrated and seamlessly managed. Moreover,” he says, “control is actuated before the vehicle exceeds its movement threshold. This assures a high degree of preventive safety and significantly improves upon ordinary driving performance in terms of “traveling, tuning and stopping.”
Hattori adds that VDIM “begins integrated control of the brakes, engine and steering before the vehicle reaches its limits, thereby achieving higher preventive safety performance and ideal vehicle kinetics.” [In a test drive on simulated ice, the system did not allow the driver to veer off-course and spin the car.]

VDIM is the latest in a growing lineup of advanced safety features available on Toyota cars. In 2003, the automaker incorporated the world’s first radar-based pre-crash system into the Harrier (featuring millimeter wave radar, pre-crash brake assist, pre-crash seatbelts and emergency braking-induced PSB).

Later, the automaker added pre-crash brakes and suspension control for the Celsior (sold as the LS430 in the U.S. and Europe. Most recently, the company added camera image processing for the Crown Majesta which, according to Hattori, improves collision forecast accuracy and improves warning and control levels.

Toyota is not alone in offering state-of-theart safety features. In 2001, Nissan introduced a lane-deviation prevention system on the President and Cima. Management plans to introduce the system, along with “intelligent braking,” on all upscale cars by 2010. Elsewhere, Honda introduced a lane-keeping assist system on the domestic Accord and Inspire in October 2002 and June 2003.

Both Honda and Nissan now offer frontcollision avoidance on several domestic models including the Inspire, Odyssey, President and Cima. And the list goes on.

Meanwhile, at a safety symposium held in June at Toyota’s Higashi-Fuji Technical Center, management revealed that the automaker crashed 1,500 vehicles in 2003, up nearly onethird from five years before. They expect that number to increase to 2,000 units in 2008.

On average, Toyota crashes 80 cars for development of a new platform although the number varies by product segment (sedan, sport-utility vehicle and minivan) and grade (economy, mid-range and luxury). In the future, researchers do not expect the number of crash tests to decrease despite improvements in simulation technology because test conditions will increase.

Toyota researchers warn that there are limits to safety technology. They note that even if vehicular safety measures were utilized fully, traffic fatalities would not fall below 40 percent of current levels by 2030. In 2003, there were an estimated 7,700 traffic fatalities in Japan of which 30 percent involved pedestrians.
“To realize zero injuries and fatalities,” says Toyota executive Takeshi Uchiyamada, “it is necessary that proactive measures be taken not only toward automobiles but also from the perspective of people and that such countermeasures treat the respective spheres as an interrelated whole.”

Meanwhile, the number of injuries resulting from traffic accidents peaked last year at 1.2 million. Hattori attributes the increase to more vehicles on Japanese roads and more people having licenses.

This article was provided exclusively to Automotive Industries by J•REPORTS, a new information service offering in-depth coverage of automotive technology based in Tokyo. For additional information about this and other studies and prices, contact

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