Toyota (TM) - Get Toyota Motor Corp. Sponsored ADR Report said it soon will equip all its vehicle models with automatic emergency braking systems that avert and mitigate collisions, a step closer toward autonomous systems that take over most driving functions.
By the end of 2017 in North America -- and soon after worldwide -- all Toyota models will come equipped with sensors, cameras and software packages that predict when a collision might happen and slow or stop the vehicle. The No. 1 producer of vehicles worldwide currently offers the feature as an option on some Toyota and Lexus models, costing from $500 to $750.
The disclosure by Toyota comes on the heels of an agreement last week among major automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to install automatic braking on all vehicles by 2022.
Other automakers offer automatic braking as options or in packages that include other features. Toyota's move is likely to increase pressure on General Motors (GM) - Get General Motors Company (GM) Report and others to install the device across the model line as standard equipment well ahead of the agreement deadline.
The proliferation of new, high-tech automotive equipment could be a windfall for automotive suppliers such as Denso (DNZOY) , Continental AG (CTTAY) , Robert Bosch and Delphi Automotive (DLPH) - Get Delphi Technologies Plc Report .
Automatic braking is an integral component of autonomous driving systems, which safely can assist the driver to operate the vehicle. Autonomous systems are a stepping stone to comprehensive driverless systems that automakers predict will be able to operate a vehicle with little or no driver input.
Toyota shares have fallen 29% in the past year, compared with a 13% fall in the Nikkei 225 Index of large company stocks traded in Tokyo. Toyota's American depositary receipts have declined 24% in the past year, compared with a 3% fall in the S&P 500.
Having attained the status of world's largest automaker, Toyota is likewise striving to streamline organization and decision-making. Three weeks ago the automaker confirmed that it will restructure its company into units according to vehicle classes.
"By breaking the company down to a smaller framework than before, each one can decide more quickly and respond to changes," said spokesman Ryo Sakai to The Wall Street Journal.
Toyota has undertaken several corporate reorganizations over the past several years. Akio Toyoda, president, and other executives have expressed concern that the company is too big to act swiftly and to respond to crisis or to changes in market or regulatory conditions.
The seven new units will act as in-house companies focused on creating new models, each with its own president. Executive vice presidents will be reduced in number to four from six in an attempt to push responsibility lower and give younger managers more authority. An earlier region-focused structure introduced in 2013 -- one for developed markets and one for emerging markets -- will stay in place and work with the new companies.
Doron Levin is the host of "In the Driver Seat," broadcast on SiriusXM Insight 121, Saturday at noon, encore Sunday at 9 a.m.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.