Toyota Motor Corp is testing car safety systems that allow vehicles to communicate with each other and with the roads they are on in a just completed facility in Japan the size of three baseball stadiums.
The cars at the Intelligent Transport System site receive information from sensors and transmitters installed on the streets to minimise the risk of accidents in situations such as missing a red traffic light, cars advancing from blind spots and pedestrians crossing the street.
The system also tests cars that transmit such information to each other.
In a test drive yesterday, the presence of a pedestrian triggered a beeping sound in the car and a picture of a person popped up on a screen in front of the driver.
A picture of an arrow popped up to indicate an approaching car at an intersection. An electronic female voice said, "It's a red light," if the driver was about to ignore a red light.
The 3.5 hectare test site looks much like the artificial roads at driving schools, except bigger, and is in a corner of the Japanese automaker's technology centre near Mount Fuji.
Toyota officials said the smart-car technology it is developing will be tested on some Japanese roads starting in 2014. Similar tests are planned for the US, though details were not decided.
Such technology is expected to be effective because half of car accidents happen at intersections, according to Toyota.
All automakers are working on pre-crash safety technology to add value to their cars, especially for developed markets such as the US, Europe and Japan.
Toyota's Japanese rival Nissan Motor Co recently showed cars that were smart enough to stop on their own, park themselves and swerve away from pedestrians who suddenly jumped into the vehicle's path.
Toyota also showed a new feature that helps the driver brake harder to prevent bumping into the vehicle in front. It said the technology will be available "soon".
Toyota has also developed sonar sensors that help drivers avoid crashing in parking lots. One system even knows when the driver pushes on the gas pedal by mistake instead of the brakes, and will stop automatically.