Why does this car have two steering wheels?

World over, car makers are moving towards autonomous/self driving cars – said to be the next big thing in the automobile world. Japanese automaker Toyota – one of the world’s biggest car makers – is also developing self-driving cars. Here’s one from Toyota’s fleet with not one but two steering wheels.

But what’s the extra steering for?

Toyota's Lexus 600L Autonomous Car 2

Toyota is now in the advanced stages of testing this autonomous car, which by the way is a Lexus LS 600hL test vehicle equipped with LIDAR, radar, and camera arrays. This car has two steering wheels as Toyota wants to test various conditions where the autonomous car may need an expert driver to step in and take over controls.

Here’s a video that shows the car in action.

Apart from the steering wheel access to the front-passenger, this car also has all the other functions that the driver-seat has access to, including the accelerator and brake pedals, and the gear shifter. Toyota notes that the dual-cockpit car is currently at a very advanced of of testing.

As the video explains, the Japanese automaker working on two systems – Chauffeur and Guardian. The Chauffeur system is one that can drive the car fully autonomously, with  absolutely no input from a human driver. However, it will allow the human driver to take over when she/he feels like driving.

Toyota's Lexus 600L Autonomous Car 1

On the other hand, the Guardian system is more like Tesla’s AutoPilot system. It continuously monitors the human driver’s driving and steps in when necessary. The Guardian system – in other words – will act like big brother/override, making sure that the driver doesn’t crash the car.

Apart from Toyota, a flurry of automakers such as Mercedes Benz, Tesla and Nissan, and tech-giants such as Google and Apple are testing driverless cars. By 2020, the first such cars will be ready to drive on international roads. However, a global system that allows autonomous cars of various brands to interact and understand each other needs to be evolved, somewhat like computers with various operating systems all being able to connect to the internet. While autonomous cars could become mainstream by the end of next decade in developed countries, they may be still be many decades away from hitting Indian roads considering how chaotic our traffic conditions are.

Via TheVerge