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(Reuters) — Toyota unveiled an emergency safety system on Monday that uses big data to ignore the accelerator if it determines the driver steps on the pedal unintentionally.

Japan’s biggest carmaker will roll out what it calls an “accelerator suppression function” in new cars from this summer, beginning in Japan.

The system is a response to an increasingly common cause of traffic accidents in Japan where the driver, often elderly, mistakes the accelerator for the brake.

Some 15% of fatal accidents on Japanese roads in 2018 were caused by drivers who were 75 years or older, showed a report from the government, which actively encourages elderly drivers to give up their licenses.

Toyota’s announcement comes as automakers globally invest heavily in “active safety features” as they work to develop fully autonomous cars.

It also comes in the same year Toyota will act as the exclusive mobility sponsor for the Tokyo Olympics, where it will showcase its fully self-driving e-Palette transportation pods carrying athletes around the Olympic village at low speeds.

Among competitors, Honda Motor plans to launch a car this year capable of full autonomy in highway traffic jam situations. Nissan released the second generation of its ProPilot driver-assist system last spring, offering hands-free operation for single-lane highway driving.

Toyota rolled out its first-generation Safety Sense package in 2015, which included automated emergency braking and a lane departure alert. The second generation became available in 2018, adding assisted single-lane highway driving and making the car capable of recognizing pedestrians at night and bicycles.

Its new feature was developed using data collected from the internet-connected cars it has on the road. Unlike the carmaker’s existing safety options, the new system does not require the presence of an obstacle to function.

(Reporting by Kevin Buckland, editing by Christopher Cushing.)


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