Notice a lot of fender benders recently? The combination of terrible gridlock and drivers either bored out of their skulls, or bone-tired after a long day—maybe both—is resulting in a lot of slow collisions. We don’t need to cite any studies; a few months ago I saw four bumpers that rubbed against each other in one day.
Yes, there’s no excuse for unsafe driving, but the struggle is real.
Today we experienced what could be the perfect solution to this worsening motoring issue. At a technology tour in Japan organized by Toyota Motor Philippines, we got to try the new Prius hybrid and its pre-collision system (PCS).
This feature uses a millimeter wave radar and a camera to calculate the distance in front of the Prius. Once the PCS detects an obstacle, it will first warn the driver; then if he continues trying to catch Pikachu, it will prep the brakes; and if he really doesn’t stop being distracted, the car will engage the brakes—and then let go after two seconds.
We tried it first with an instructor behind the wheel, then with us in the driver’s seat. We accelerated to 30kph, aimed for a plywood barrier, and forced ourself not to step on the brake pedal. It works beautifully. The Prius even stops without jarring the occupants too much; the brakes applied forcefully but with minimal discomfort.
This is all well and good, but it begs the question: When are we getting it? We know the all-new Prius, similar to the one we drove here in Japan, will be revealed at the Philippine International Motor Show next month. But we couldn’t get confirmation if this feature will be in the Philippine-spec units we’ll be getting.
This kind of safety feature isn’t exactly new, but usually it has been confined to premium car brands. Having it in a Toyota is a significant step in the right direction, even in something as expensive as a hybrid (pass the damn alternative fuels act already).
Who knows? Maybe Toyota’s persistence in pushing its hybrid vehicles will result in friendlier pricing this time around. Let’s keep our fingers off our smartphones, and cross them for good luck.