Toyota is bringing us one step closer to the future with its latest patent application, which is for an honest-to-goodness virtual reality system for autonomous cars. Of course, this begs the question: why do we need virtual reality in cars when actual reality exists outside the windows? Because silly, you can only see the current reality beyond the glass, whereas Toyota’s system will let you see the future.

Wait, what?

To be specific, Toyota’s virtual reality navigation system will show operators where the on-board brain intends to steer the car at any given point during the drive. Depending on how far ahead you look, the system will offer a virtual display of the location and the car’s path, either through a video screen in the dash or displayed on the windshield. If the operator doesn’t like the chosen path for any reason, a new route can be selected through the VR interface.

Toyota VR navigation patent
Toyota VR navigation patent

If that sounds strangely like, you know, actually driving a car, you wouldn’t be wrong. For the Playstation gamers out there it sounds a lot like the B-Spec driving mode in Sony’s Gran Turismo, where the computer does the driving but the player calls the shots on what the car does. You might say that Toyota’s VR system lets the driver become the car’s coach.


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According to the patent application, the system would basically use a standard suite of autonomous tools currently in play, combined with maps to provide a basic VR representation of points along the route. There would also be safeguards in place in case the operator tries to divert the car someplace it shouldn’t go, like the wrong way on a one-way street for example.

As with all patented items, there’s no guarantee it will see the light of day. It certainly sounds like proper space-age stuff, but people already have the ability to choose alternate routes through a GPS system. And it seems to us that, if you’re going to follow the autonomous activity so closely as to want to make changes, why not just drive the actual car?

Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


Gallery: Toyota Virtual Reality Navigation Patent

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