Don’t get your hopes up for driverless cars In the near future, say safety executives at Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE:TM) (TYO:7203).

Toyota Driverless car

Toyota would have collision-prevention technology by 2017

While discussing upcoming safety releases, the automotive manufacturer was quoted in an Associated Press report as saying they would have collision-prevention technology installed in its U.S. offering by 2017. The safety packages will be available on both mainstream and luxury vehicles alike.

Dashing the daydreams of automated car enthusiasts, Toyota said in a press briefing Thursday the auto industry is more than a decade away from selling cars that drive themselves.  This is due to technical limitations, but also legal issues.  For instance, if a crash occurs who is legally held liable?  A computer? To this end, Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE:TM) (TYO:7203) said doesn’t foresee a point when a legally liable human won’t be needed behind the wheel.

“Toyota will not be developing a driverless car,” Seigo Kuzumaki, the company’s deputy chief safety technology officer was quoted as saying. Humans will be required to handle situations that cannot be anticipated by a computer, the Toyota executives were quoted as saying.

Driverless cars a pipeless dream

In a Wednesday ValueWalk article we noted that totally driverless cars might be a pipe dream.  There are human discretionary variables that cannot be easily replaced by a computer, random multiple input scenarios that require human relative value thinking to make the appropriate decisions, we wrote. “Driverless” driving in the rain or snow, for instance, presents unpredictable variables that don’t coalesce with rigid if-then computer logic and its predetermined universe of situational variables.

What Toyota does envision is a gradual migration towards cars doing most of the driving – a process that will require people to gain trust in providing control to computerized systems and artificial intelligence.

Toyota to roll out a camera

One feature Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE:TM) (TYO:7203) expects to roll out is a camera that monitors the driver’s eyes and steering wheel to ensure that eyes are on the road and hands on the wheel. If the driver were to move eyes away from the road or take a hand off the wheel the computer would discipline the human with a warning. While some might consider this “nanny state tracking technology,” others might put it in the same category as a mechanism that automatically keeps the car aligned inbetween the white lane lines.

“In other words, a full-time back-seat driver,” Ken Koibuchi, general manager of Toyota’s intelligent vehicle division, joked at a Thursday press briefing. The company may have many of these advanced technologies ready to roll out “mid-decade,” which leaves a fair cushion in expectations for testing and working out any computer glitches.