Hino Motors is devising autonomous-driving technologies that can guide buses and trucks to change lanes and safely stop on the shoulder if the driver suddenly becomes incapacitated.
The company has started conducting studies using a tour bus on a test course.
When the driver loses consciousness, for instance, a camera positioned to read the driver's face would recognize that his or her eyes are shut, and activates the self-driving system. Sensors attached to four corners of the vehicle monitor traffic, and when on a straight road with clear visibility, the vehicle will turn on the blinker and changes lanes to stop on the shoulder.
Hino may combine the technology with an on-board communication system to notify the operating company, police and ambulance dispatcher of the vehicle's location.
So far, the test driving has been successful on a sunny day. Hino will continue to hone the technologies to accommodate rainy weather and nighttime driving.
With accidents involving commercial vehicles often resulting in major damage, Hino sees demand for this safety feature.
A similar system that monitors the driver, as well as as an automatic brake to mitigate a crash and a lane-departure warning system have already been applied to commercial vehicles. Daimler from Germany plans to market self-driving trucks by 2025, and is conducting public-road tests at home and in the U.S.