Are Ford and Toyota Going to Battle on Safety?

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Toyota Safety Research Vehicles

For years, automakers like Toyota (NYSE:TM) delivered safe, reliable vehicles to American consumers, giving Japanese brands a leg up on the U.S. auto industry. One great achievement of Alan Mulally, Ford’s (NYSE:F) chief executive, was changing the tone and pushing his company toward a roster of smaller, more efficient vehicles. That strategy allowed Ford to gain ground against Toyota, and the next battle may be waged over advanced safety technology.

Since the start of October, both Ford and Toyota have showcased innovative safety tech. Ford flashed its self-parking system that would reduce the number of fender benders at the curb while eliminating the stress involved with maneuvering into a tight space. Recently, in Belgium, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker displayed it Obstacle Avoidance system, technology that alerts drivers of pedestrians and other vehicles that present danger.

If a driver isn’t able to react quickly enough, the Obstacle Avoidance system will take control of the vehicle and swerve away from danger. Ford continues to push toward a safer, greener, more convenient mode of driving through its European division, which is a departure from its muscle-first approach in the past. Toyota had its own new safety systems on display Thursday.

Toyota’s Automated Highway Driving Assist (ADHA) system entered the public domain with a promise the automaker would integrate the technology in its vehicles by 2015 or 2016. In a company statement, Toyota explained how its two-pronged system of lane control would avoid peripheral dangers while its cruise control tech would remind drivers to maintain a safe distance between cars on the highway.

Toyota also had senior-friendly advancements that would help the “super-aging populations of the future” in confronting and avoiding dangers. Toyota is starting trials in mid- to late-October this year and hopes to have the anti-collision technology in place by “the mid-2010s,” according to a company statement.

In the future of the automotive industry, a vehicle’s ability to avoid accidents may be as prized as performance and fuel efficiency are today. Neither Toyota nor Ford are ignoring the potential in safety advancements, and the leader could find an edge in the budding safety assist system industry.

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