Toyota and Microsoft Research teamed up to build a concept version of the Sienna minivan that helps make day-to-day driving easier for customers. Called the Toyota Driver Awareness Research Vehicle, or DAR-V, the Sienna uses gesture controls and other technologies to help reduce driver distraction and allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.
"While the auto industry will never eliminate every potential driver distraction, we can develop new ways to keep driver attention and awareness where it needs to be -- on the road ahead," Toyota's director of the Collaborative Safety Research Center Chuck Gulash said in a statement.
The basic idea is for the Toyota DAR-V to show the driver information on a screen built into the passenger-side window before he or she even enters the vehicle. Using gesture controls from the Microsoft Kinect video-game interface sensor built into the roof rails, the driver can select their schedule, destinations, and even elect pre-schedule gas station stops into the navigation route. The idea is for the driver to take of this type of planning before he or she starts driving, precluding the need to focus on a navigation system or phone once behind the wheel.
An extension of the system would allow the Toyota DAR-V to recognize different passengers, potentially allowing it to automatically ensure that children buckle their seatbelts or are appropriately strapped into child seats. According to Toyota, the car's screens could even "play games" that guide children to buckle their belts quickly.
"By addressing these tasks… before the car is set into motion, the driver is given more mental bandwidth, and potentially a higher level of awareness, to the task of driving safely," Gulash said in a statement.
For now, the Toyota DAR-V remains a concept, but elements of the car could help Toyota develop in-car technologies that are less distracting to drivers.