The Driver Awareness Vehicle (DAR-V) is a Sienna minivan that incorporates Microsoft Kinect console technology.
The vehicle displays personalized information on the side window as the driver approaches, and using a combination of gesture control, voice and a key fob, drivers can navigate information such as updates on traffic and the weather, appointments and schedules, or details about nearby gas stations.
"By addressing these critical daily priorities before even setting foot in the vehicle, a driver potentially has more mental bandwidth to focus on driving," according to Chuck Gulash, director of Toyota's Collaborative Safety Research Center.
The DAR-V system can reduce driver distractions in other ways by differentiating between individuals. For example, children might play a game designed to help them buckle their seatbelts quickly so parents can focus their attention on the road.
Gulash also said the automaker has partnered with MIT's AgeLab to further study voice recognition. Researchers found that the mental demands on drivers while using voice commands were actually lower than expected, potentially because drivers compensate by slowing down, changing lanes less frequently or increasing the distance to other vehicles.
However, in several of the voice interactions studied, the amount of time drivers took their eyes off the road during voice-command tasks was greater than expected. The situation is often more pronounced among older drivers, some of whom physically oriented their bodies toward the system's graphical interface.