In the past decade, Toyota and Google have both sunk sizable sums of money into the driverless car game, with Nissan, Ford, and most recently GM reluctantly following suit. Toyota and Google are arguably the most serious players in this space, and until recently seemed to agree on the future relationship of the car and driver. However, Toyota stated earlier this month that they have no intention of making a truly automatic car. Rather, they believe that neither computers nor humans are independently ideal, and both working in tandem creates the most safe environment for driving.
Whether Toyota started its trek into the auto-driving space with the same mantra, we’ll never know for sure, but Toyota’s new rhetoric is telling of what they believe will resonate with customers. Instead of framing car technology as taking away that which humans cannot do as effectively as computers, a notoriously Google-like approach, they see their R&D efforts as equipping humans to react to situations with the immediate and necessary information to make an informed reaction.
Toyota’s stance is that humans are still the essential ingredient in safe driving, and computers can never truly do away with us. Google’s car sometimes comes off as a warning about creating a car that doesn’t even have a steering wheel, a scary thought to non-Gen Y-ers and um, people who like driving. Unlike with its search engines, phones and many other products that free up time and enable humans to perform tasks easier, this automated car program has a subtle Big-Brother undertone, where nothing besides the music and air conditioning is within the driver’s (occupant’s) control.
Toyota understands that people want more control, not less, especially when it comes to something life-or-death like driving a car. No one has a problem with automating every process having to do with phones, homes and computers because they aren’t giving the control over their physical wellbeing to an unapologetic object. Particularly in the current age of recalls and faulty car technologies, computers have a large challenge of gaining the full trust from average people.
Toyota gives drivers the most control possible, whereas Google’s technology appears to take all the control away. Which company’s car are you going to buy (disregarding the laughably atrocious designs of the Google car)?