Automakers are always looking for the next best way to keep drivers safe. Many are now releasing systems that use radar to detect obstructions in the road and help reduce the severity of a crash, but what if your car could predict a crash from much farther down the road and do more than just stomp on the brakes to help keep you out of trouble? That’s exactly what Toyota is working on, and it’s exciting.
A More Capable System
Toyota is investing more than $1 Billion into artificial intelligence in a quest to make vehciles that are more intelligent and that can operate themselves to some degree. While making this massive investment Toyota also hopes to make major strides towards safety. The automaker is exploring different safety systems that can detect crashes and other dangerous situations more effectively, and respond to them in new and helpful ways. For instance, a wreck in the middle of the highway would be best avoided by changing to a new lane that puts you out of the way of the vehicle. The Toyota vehicle might notice that you haven’t changed lanes yet and steer you into the safer lane after checking to be sure there was a safe opening to move. Of course the vehicle would let you know you’re being moved for safety purposes, and you would be spared the risk of that collision. That’s the type of technology that Toyota is working towards, and it’s something that could help prevent a lot of collisions or near collisions while out on the road.
Helping Japan’s Aging Society
Toyota is investing so much of its resources into AI research to help stay ahead in the race toward self-driving vehicles, but also to help its aging society. The automaker realizes that citizens in Japan are slowly growing older and older and that puts private vehicle ownership at risk in the country. In order to help out the citizens, and keep selling vehicles in Japan, Toyota really wants cars that take on more of the driving responsibility themselves, so that the elderly still have vehicles to rely on. Toyota is even looking at robots designed to help out people in their homes so that their lives can be improved outside of the vehicle as well.
Toyota isn’t the only automaker to look at these types of enhancements, but it seems to be one of the most serious companies about safety and self-driving vehicles. With major safety advancements like the one detailed above going into mainstream vehicles, the roads are bound to become significantly safer for everyone involved, and that’s exciting news for everybody.
It’s a fact of life that cars are still quite dangerous to drive around, even though they are becoming safer every year. That’s why things like crash test ratings, and standard safety equipment mean so much today. Anyone interested in owning a high-efficiency hybrid vehicle will be happy to hear that the Toyota Prius and the Prius Prime both performed at the top level when tested out by the IIHS and received a “Good” in every single category of the testing.
The Safest Prius Vehicles to Date
According to the testing data provided by the IIHS, the two Prius vehicles are the safest options on the road to date when it comes to a highly efficient hybrid car, and they both received the Top Safety Pick + designation.
The IIHS wasn’t the only organization to give the 2016 Prius vehicles a glowing review. The NHTSA also took a look at the Prius Prime (both Prius vehicles use the same platform) and gave it a top five-star rating. Sure the Prius Prime didn’t receive a five on every single test, but it performed quite well and was one of the safest vehicles to be tested anyway. The Prius got a four-star rating in the rollover category and for the frontal crash, but got five star marks for the side crash test.
The Prius Prime comes with such standard features as ESC and anti-lock brakes, along with eight different airbags around the vehicle. This includes driver and front passenger multi-stage airbags. Driver knee airbags and front passenger seat cushion airbags also come as standard. If you want any of the more advanced adaptive safety features, you’ll have to add those on as additional options.
Now you know just how safe either of the new Prius vehicles are, and you have another reason to pick them up other than their high marks in fuel efficiency. If you value safety in a sedan, consider either the new Prius or Prius Prime, they both offer safety and one of the highest efficiency levels on the market today.
One common reason that Chrysler, Chevy or Dodge owners will give you for buying the vehicles that they do is that they are “Made in America”. I use the quotes there because most of those domestic vehicles are actually produced in foreign countries with foreign parts. If you’re considering picking up a vehicle from one of the domestic automakers because you believe that the vehicles are being made in the United States, you should consider picking up a Toyota Camry instead.
Built in the United States with Local Parts
While Chevy and Chrysler are producing vehicles using plants in Mexico, Toyota is putting out Camrys right from its plants in Georgetown Kentucky and Lafayette Indiana. Not only does Toyota hire a bunch of Americans to work at the plants building the vehicles, but the automaker also sources parts locally. The engine and transmission assembly plants and parts manufacturers tend to cluster right around the plants that assemble the Camry. It just makes sense to build cars right by where they are sold, and that’s exactly what Toyota does. This helps save the automaker money, and it infuses money into our local economies since all those workers are being paid a healthy wage.
Domestically Made Vehicles are Short in Supply
Not only is it surprising that Toyota tops the list of the most domestically produced vehicles in the country, but it’s also surprising that the number of vehicles that can be considered domestically produced is declining each and every year. That means that by buying the Camry you’re helping to encourage domestic production, and buying into one of the very few vehicles left that really qualify as American Made. There are just eight vehicles on the list put together by Cars.com that really qualify as being American made. That’s eight out of several hundred vehicles, which is a bit disconcerting for anyone that cares about vehicles being produced in America.
Filling up the Top Five
Toyota didn’t just take the top spot for most domestically made vehicle, the automaker also helps fill in another top five spot with the Toyota Sienna at number three. Either of these two vehicles rely heavily on American parts and labor for production.
That doesn’t mean that most vehicles are low quality, or that you should only start buying Toyota vehicles. It does mean that stereotypes aren’t as reliable as you might believe. Sure there are a couple domestic offerings from GMC and Chevy that hit the list too, but both Toyota and Honda offer many more vehicle models that are produced with US workers and parts, making them the better option for those that care about that sort of thing.
By now most people have heard of the Prius Prime and its massive eco potential. The little Prius is capable of traveling at well over 50 MPG, and it can go quite a ways on a single charge using full electricity the entire time. Most people know that the Prius Prime is a pretty cool vehicle, but do any of you remember the solar panel option for the original Prius? The panel would only work to power the climate control at that time, and critics weren’t too impressed because it didn’t help boost the range of the vehicle or its efficiency much. Now the Prius Prime is coming with the same option, but the panel used is approximately three to five times more powerful.
An Extended Range
The Prius Prime could be as much as 10 percent more efficient with the addition of that solar panel. That Kyocera panel up on top of the roof will send power straight back to the vehicle’s battery, allowing you to drive farther on a battery charge on a sunny day, and also allowing the vehicle to gain power while sitting out in the sunlight even when no charging station is around.
An Emergency Solution
Critics still say that the panel isn’t going to make much of a difference on overall driving performance and that it can’t be used to charge up the vehicle much. It could help a stranded Prius owner get their vehicle a short distance though, even if the tank does run out of fuel. Sure it would take some serious time for the battery to fill back up using pure sunlight, but it’s possible for the car to charge itself with the panel over time, and even a small charge could be enough to help the car travel a few miles. Experts say the panel will add approximately 2.2 miles of charge to the vehicle throughout the day. Sure it isn’t practical, but it’s a solution that could end up being useful when you least expect it.
Charge Your Phone with the Car Off
Most people out camping hesitate to charge their phone, tablet and other devices too often for fear that they will kill the vehicle’s battery. As long as there is plenty of sunlight while out with the Prius Prime, you won’t have to worry about that. The solar panel will provide all the power that you need to recharge your devices while the car is shut off. You can leave them plugged in all day and not worry about killing the battery in the process.
US Customers are Out of Luck for the Moment
Now that you know about the awesome solar panel option coming with the Prius Prime, it’s time to let you know that it isn’t coming to the US, at least not immediately. The reinforced glass that covers the panels doesn’t pass the safety tests here. Toyota is working on a solution to that issue, but it could take some time for the automaker to figure out a way around that problem. Until then you’ll have to get a Prius Prime without the solar panel, though I’m sure some aftermarket solutions will be offered a short while after release.
Toyota vehicles are known for being some of the safest and most reliable out on the road. The automaker is always working on another feature or design improve to make them even safer, and now it’s upgrading the way it does crash test dummies to make rides safer for children.
Adding Three More Dummy Models
Toyota’s crash test system is known as THUMS and it’s well-known for being one of the most realistic crash test suites used to verify that vehicles are safe. The software began use back in 2000, and since then has evolved dramatically. The most recent addition is a selection of different child models, to help simulate crashes with different sized dummies.
Three Different Sized Children
In order to create more realistic crash scenarios Toyota worked in three different sized child dummies into the mix. There is now a 10 year old, 6 year old and 3 year old test dummy that can be added into different locations of a vehicle to see how crashes will work out with them. Each of these dummies is sized the average size for a US child in the various age groups listed above. That means that more effective tests can be done on things like airbags, and impacts at different angles.
So Good Other Automakers Use it
Toyota’s software tool is so effective that many other automakers pay to use the software as well. Toyota is not willing to disclose which other companies rely on the proprietary software, but we bet it’s more than just one or two.
Physical crash tests have been using child-sized dummies for years, but having access to virtual dummies is much more convenient and will allow testing a larger number of scenarios, which should result in even safer vehicles down the road. While one single physical test is carried out, Toyota can run dozens of virtual tests and collect all the data that comes from each one of them.
Overall this software advancement is big news. It means that Toyota is now looking out for children more effectively. Cars will be designed to protect adults and children alike, and when those vehicles do get into accidents they will be even safer for the kids riding in them, which I’m sure is a major priority for parents. Of course physical tests are still going to be used, and when vehicles are tested for safety they are done so using real-world testing of finished vehicles, but virtual testing can help make those vehicles even more capable before they ever get to the physical testing stage.
Ever since Google began testing out it’s self-driving vehicles the world has been clamoring about the possibility of self-driving vehicles and how they would change the world for everyone that currently drives. With each year since then technology has improved and it looks more and more likely that self-driving cars will eventually be offered. Most of the top automakers are hard at working making this technology possible, but each for different reasons. Toyota wants to offer self-driving vehicles to help its aging population get around safely and to ease the burden on the public transportation system.
Japan’s Population is one of the Oldest
Japan is known for its long life expectancy, and that means that the population is made up off more seniors than it is young people. As the number of elderly people increases it becomes increasingly challenging to help them get around and to meet basic transportation needs in general. Self driving vehicles could help alleviate that issue in a number of different ways, but the most obvious is allowing seniors to own vehicles that drive them around after having their license revoked or restricted due to age and difficulties driving.
Enhance Everyday Living
It’s tough to keep up with everyday needs when you can’t travel on your own. It’s tiring and burdensome to have to call family members and friends for help whenever transport is required, which is why self-driving cars could solve that problem. Even though an elderly person can’t drive a vehicle after a certain point for safety reasons, they could ride in the back of a self-driving vehicle to get where they need to go without issue. That’s something that Toyota is working toward.
Reduce the Strain on the Healthcare System
In order to treat all the elderly members of society in Japan they must be transported to one of the local hospitals. This is often accomplished through public transportation and specialty services. Unfortunately it’s becoming more and more difficult to provide the service to these citizens, as the number of elderly people grows throughout the country. Self-driving cars could really reduce the strain on the healthcare system when it comes to public transportation.
Toyota recognizes that the market for a self-driving car could be huge in Japan, and the automaker is working actively to try to make that dream possible for any elderly Japanese men and women that have a need for convenient transportation.
Owning a vehicle is expensive, there’s no doubt about that. But one of the biggest expenses that you likely face, is probably one that you don’t even think about before making a vehicle purchase. Maintenance. That’s right, the money that you spend on maintaining that vehicle over the years is staggering, and it makes a lot of sense looking for vehicles that are more affordable to maintain when you try to pick out the one that you are going to drive around. According to information from YourMechanic, a vehicle website focused on car maintenance, the Toyota Prius is the least expensive vehicle to maintain overall. That’s exciting news when you consider that you’ll already be saving money on fuel every day that you drive around.
How Little Does it Cost?
According to data collected by YourMechanic, the Toyota Prius costs justs $4,300. That’s a bargain when you consider vehicles like the Chrysler Sebring that will set you back $17,100 over a 10 year period for regular maintenance and repair. When you look at the difference between maintenance costs of these vehicles it’s obvious that that is a consideration you should be making when buying your vehicle.
Save Money Over the Long Term
While the Toyota Prius is a bit more expensive than some of the other vehicles out on the road, it’s easy to see how you’ll save money over the long term by picking up the mid-sized hybrid. Not only will you cut your fuel expenses throughout the year, but you’ll cut maintenance and repair costs as well. It’s the ultimate low-cost vehicle when you consider all the different ways that it will save you money, which is exactly why you should be considering it over the other options being offered to the masses.
I’m not saying that you should run out and buy the Prius, there are other vehicles such as the Kia Soul, the Camry and the Honda Fit that are also affordable to maintain, but I am saying that you need to pay attention to maintenance costs before running out and buying a new vehicle. They make a big difference over time, and you could end up spending as much as $13,000 additional money over 10 years because you picked a more expensive vehicle to maintain when you were out car shopping.
The Toyota Tundra isn’t the most popular full-sized pickup truck in the country, but it does have a strong following of buyers that migrate from one model to the next as needed. There is a lot that the Tundra has to offer buyers, even though the last time it was completely overhauled was back in 2007. The truck is slated to receive some massive enhancements in the coming year, and should become even more popular thanks to these enhancements.
The 2016 Toyota Tundra is slated to receive a bunch of advancements that will make it even more desirable to purchase. Many models of the Tundra are going to receive a fuel tank upgrade to carry a total of 38 gallons of fuel at a time. The truck is also set to receive an enhanced infotainment system and a built-in trailer brake to help with major towing tasks. All of these improvements should help the truck to appeal to an even larger audience of buyers.
Known for Reliability
Tundra truck owners are more concerned about reliability than most other truck owners are. They believe strongly that reliability is the most important aspect of a vehicle, which is why they depend on the reliability of the Toyota brand, and for how solid Tundras are known to be. This is one of the main reasons that Tundras show up in the work force regularly, and that they are known for having fewer features than some of their competitors.
Powerful Towing Capacity
Tundras are known for their power and towing capacity. While they can’t offer the highest towing in the industry, they are known for towing just what they say they will and not relying on inflated numbers at all. Owners appreciate the reliable figures and the dependable towing power that the Tundra has to offer. It looks like the 2016 model is going to keep the same 10,500 lb. towing capacity, more than enough power to handle most towing tasks presented to it.
Produced in America
While many truck owners that avoid the Tundra do so because it’s not made by an American automaker, they aren’t thinking clearly. The Tundra is produced in Texas and relies on nearly 50 percent American Made parts. That ratio is higher than many of the supposedly “American Made” brands, and some of those brands build their trucks in other countries such as Mexico. The Toyota Tundra is a good option for buyers looking to get an American-Made vehicle, and there are few truck options that rely more on domestic parts and labor during production.
The 2016 Toyota Tundra is a nice step up from the 2015 model, but it still sticks to the same high levels of durability and rugged performance that Tundras are known for.
Toyota is one of the more environmentally friendly automakers in the world, and is working hard to push toward alternative energy options such as hydrogen and solar power. The automaker demonstrates this by pushing out more hybrid vehicles than any other automaker, being the first to push hydrogen-powered vehicles out to the public, and by fighting for a carbon-emission-free workplace by 2050. That’s right, the company plans on eliminating all its carbon emissions, or offsetting them completely in one way or another by 2050. The latest Plano Texas headquarters are just one example of how the automaker is moving in that direction.
The Plano Headquarters
The latest Toyota headquarters are being put up in Plano Texas, a section of the world known for getting plenty of sunlight. The facility is going to be fitted with a monstrous 7.75-megawatt solar system to power the entire facility with approximately 25 percent of all the power needed for regular operations. This system will be the largest on any corporate building in the state of Texas that isn’t owned by a power company.
The Huge Array of Panels
The massive panel array is actually going to be put up in three different phases and won’t be completed until the end of 2017. Each of the three different phases covers up another parking structure on the campus with solar panels. Each of the sections will provide about 2.45 megawatts of panels, totaling to over 7 megawatts of power overall when complete. The panels will significantly help the environment by reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 7122 metric tons, which is the equivalent of the power used by 1,000 homes throughout the year.
This isn’t the first time that Toyota has installed a large solar array on one of its corporate buildings. A 2.3 megawatt system exists on a Toyota building in Ontario California that can be counted on to produce more than 56 percent of the power needed by that facility.
With such ambitious solar installations going up on Toyota buildings, and other environmental initiatives around the country, it’s not hard to imagine that Toyota will at least come close to becoming entirely emissions free by 2050. Sure the company has a long way to go to reach that point, but at least it’s headed in the right direction.
Each year BrandZ does a global company review to determine what the estimated value of different companies is around the world. Toyota remained on top as the most valuable of all the automakers in the world. This is good for the automaker in a number of ways, and it also means that you can feel secure when buying a Toyota vehicle.
More Money for Research and Development
Toyota, the most valuable automotive brand in the world, has plenty of money to complete research and to develop new products and technologies. That’s why the automaker was able to begin selling the Mirai to the general public and to help build out that hydrogen fuel infrastructure. The automaker can afford to lose millions of dollars on the new vehicle initially in hopes that it will take off and become a major technology in the future. That’s exactly what the company did with the Prius more than a decade ago, and signs are good that the same is happening with the Mirai as well, even though the vehicle is getting off to a somewhat slow start.
Improved research and development funding also helps lead to advanced features such as automated driving, and enhanced media systems. Toyota is in an excellent position to develop some of the latest and most helpful technologies for vehicle owners, and being ahead of other automakers in finances is largely why the company can afford
Excellent Resale Value
Holding the highest value of any car brand means that Toyota vehicles will hold their value for longer than most other car makes will. When you are ready to sell off your Toyota Corolla, Highlander, Camry or any other model that you happen to own, you can expect to get more money for the vehicle than you would if it was another brand. That’s a major benefit of buying into a Toyota vehicle, especially if you plan on reselling it a few years after making the purchase.
Toyota is known for its reliability and the automaker relies on a team of some of the most skilled engineers in the world to keep its vehicles running properly and to make them even more reliable over time. All the money that Toyota has available makes it much easier to keep vehicles reliable and to ensure that future vehicles become even more dependable.
Toyota is the most valuable automotive brand because of hard work and excellent decision making skills, but all the money that the automaker has obtained over the years only helps it stay out ahead of the competition through excellent innovation, and bringing brand new technologies to the mainstream. Sure Toyota wasn’t the first automaker to come up with a hybrid vehicle, or a vehicle that runs on hydrogen fuel, but it was the first automaker to bring those vehicles to the masses, and that’s something that Toyota will likely continue doing for years to come.