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Many new technologies make their debut within Toyota's passenger range in the latest Prius model just launched in New Zealand.
The new model Prius is the third generation of the passenger petrol electric hybrid vehicle which was introduced in New Zealand in 2003.
Since its introduction global sales have surpassed 1.2 million, and technology in the vehicle just keeps getting better.
In its latest iteration, Toyota has taken the opportunity to introduce advanced driver assist technologies that help make the new Prius a class leading hybrid in both performance and technology.
Incorporating technology once only available in luxury vehicles, Prius i-Tech offers an advanced cruise control system. Known as dynamic radar cruise control, the system is based on millimetre wave radar, using a sensor mounted behind the radiator grille.
The system maintains an appropriate distance behind another vehicle travelling in the same lane.
A distance control switch positioned near the steering wheel enables the driver to select from three pre-determined distances; short, medium or long.
If the radar detects no vehicles ahead, the cruise control operates conventionally with the vehicle travelling at a speed set by the driver.
When the radar detects a slower vehicle ahead in the same lane, its electronic control unit calculates the distance between the vehicles and lowers the speed of Prius, by reducing power and if necessary applying the brakes to maintain the desired following distance.
When the vehicle ahead moves away, Prius will automatically accelerate to return to the pre-set speed.
The system is intelligent enough not to react to still objects parked on the side of the road, and will sound an alarm if further braking is required.
Similarly, the new Prius introduces a radar based pre-crash safety system into the i-Tech model as a first for the Toyota passenger range.
The millimetre wave radar sensors are used to constantly scan the road ahead for potential obstacles.
Information from the Vehicle Stability Control sensors is also used to ultimately establish whether an emergency situation is developing.
When a collision is deemed imminent, the pre-crash safety system will automatically retract the two front seatbelts and arm the pre-crash brake assist system. If the driver does not react quickly enough to the emergency situation, Prius will automatically apply the brakes, helping to minimise impact damage and injury.
The new Prius also features a state of the art braking system combining brake by wire technology and regenerative braking whereby motors and generators convert the vehicles kinetic energy into electrical energy.
In addition, new Prius has introduced an emergency brake signal that blinks the LED brake lamps at a high frequency to warn drivers behind when emergency braking is occurring. This is the first time this technology has been incorporated into a Toyota model. This improves the reaction time of the following driver, helping to reduce the occurrence of rear-end collisions.
Two new interior design innovations of the new Prius contribute to greater safety by reducing driver eye movement for better concentration on the road.
Touch Tracer and Head-Up displays allow the driver to view important vehicle information with minimal eye movement.
Touch Tracer display has touch-sensitive switches located on either side of the steering wheel, displaying information on the instrument panel directly in front of the driver, allowing the driver to operate commonly accessed controls at a glance without taking their eyes off the road.
For example, if the driver lightly touches the audio or information dials on the steering wheel, a duplicate image is automatically displayed on the instrument panel, right in front of the driver.
Head-Up display (HUD) projects key information onto the base of the windscreen, so the driver can read it without taking their eyes off the road.
Information displayed on HUD includes vehicle speed and a monitor that shows how economically the car is being driven. For i-Tech models, turn-by-turn satellite navigation directions can also be displayed on the HUD.
The system can be adjusted for height and brightness or may be switched off, and is clearly visible even on snow covered roads.
Designed to minimise the discomfort caused when a vehicle has been parked in the sun on a hot day, Prius i-Tech's solar ventilation system uses energy generated from the sun to power a fan and circulate cool outside air within the cabin.
Working independently of either the hybrid or the conventional battery, this system is self-sufficient using solar panels in the roof and will not drain energy from the vehicle.
Another world first for the Prius i-Tech is the remote air conditioning technology whereby the hybrid battery can be remotely activated to power the air conditioning system for up to three minutes before the driver enters the vehicle.
Both the remote air conditioning and the solar powered ventilation system cool the interior before starting a journey, producing a quicker overall cool down time, ultimately saving fuel.