Toyota’s Proposed Safety and Electric Vehicle Battery Technologies

Although many of these types of systems have been recommended by the NHTSA for the past several years or so, Toyota, like many other automakers, have already begun to work on and implement new proposed safety and battery technologies. Toyota’s motivation is in the wake of their unintended acceleration recall disaster that struck a couple of years ago. They have been working adamantly to prevent that type of disaster from striking again in their vehicles.

Here are the highlights thus far:

Intelligent Clearance Sensor: this particular system uses sonar to detect objects that are out of the driver’s sight, while the vehicle is in motion. If the sensor detects an object, and determines that the vehicle is moving forward with no intention of decelerating, then it will slow the vehicle down by applying the brakes and reducing the power to the engine. Concurrently, it will also warn the driver via an alarm.

Unnamed Crash-Prevention System: this system uses millimeter-wave radar technology to detect an impending collision. If the system determines that the vehicle will indeed collide with another vehicle/object, it will alert the driver via visual and audio cues. It will also implement a brake booster that can deliver twice the amount of normally applied braking power. This system is similar to the Volvo City Safety technology, as well as any other type of radar-guided cruise control/crash-prevention system (the principle is essentially the same).

Drive-Start Control: this system is designed to detect and determine whether or not the appropriate gear has been selected by the driver coming out of Park, in correlation with the driver pressing on the accelerator. If the system determines that the wrong gear was selected, it will alert the driver and limit the amount of power to the engine in order “to limit a sudden start or acceleration”.

Based on my professional experience, I would like to see a system that overrides a person that accidentally presses the accelerator instead of the brake, in order to prevent a crash…but I feel that additional driver’s education/training would be far more beneficial to both the driver, and society in general.

And now, what could be a major breakthrough in electric vehicle technology:

Sodium-ion Batteries: according to recent reports, Toyota is currently working on a sodium-ion battery the size of a coin that will not only run at room temperatures, but will reportedly extend the range of a Toyota electric vehicle from 500 to 1000 km (approximately from 310 to 621 miles) on a single charge. To put that into perspective, that would be like being able to drive comfortably from Fort Worth to Brownsville, instead of from Fort Worth to Houston. That is, if you needed to. If you didn’t want to go to Brownsville, you could tool around Houston for a bit (or at least sit in traffic), then head back to Fort Worth with range to spare.

Anyways…how does all of this work? Well, the sodium-based chemical compound acts as the positive electrode for the battery. Moreover, in addition to the reduced size, sodium is far more abundant than lithium, in that it is found in seawater. Last time I checked, we had more than enough. Another benefit is that we won’t have to play nice with China, in order to get our hands on whatever lithium that they don’t already want for themselves (it is also being used in most smartphones).

Unlike the safety technologies, we are still quite a bit away from seeing this technology being implemented into their vehicles for commercial use. Look for this to start rolling out around 2020. If Toyota is able to pull this off, this would change the electric vehicle industry forever.

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