Tech’splaining: What is Toyota Safety Sense 2.0?

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
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Looking for yet another good reason for consumers to choose a Toyota for their next vehicle, the automaker is committed to making important advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) either standard or optional across its lineup. The goal? “Zero casualties from traffic accidents,” according to a company statement.

  • Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is an updated and expanded version of the original system which debuted on the 2019 Corolla Hatchback.
  • The second generation now features road sign assist, lane centering assist and daylight cyclist detection, just to name a few.
  • Toyota is leading the way in offering advanced driver safety features on entry-level vehicles.

Furthermore, Toyota is enhancing and refining these technologies as it redesigns vehicles. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0), a second-generation improvement of the company’s Toyota Safety Sense suite of ADAS, first appeared in North America as standard equipment on the redesigned 2019 Corolla Hatchback, followed by the all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4, 2020 Corolla sedan, and 2020 Highlander.

What Is Included In Toyota Safety Sense 2.0?

2019 Toyota RAV4 gauges with Toyota Safety Systems turned on
Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard on every 2019 RAV4. Here, you can see all of the system activation and monitoring icons within the instrumentation. (Christian Wardlaw)

Building on existing technologies, TSS 2.0 includes the following ADAS systems:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go – Toyota says it is linked to turn signal use, and features enhanced cut-in and distance control for smoother, more natural operation
  • Forward Collision Warning – System includes pedestrian and cyclist detection during the day, and pedestrian detection at night
  • Automatic Emergency Braking – Automatically applies the brakes to avoid an impact or reduce vehicle speed prior to impact
  • Lane Departure Warning – Issues audible and visual warnings that the vehicle is unintentionally departing the intended lane of travel
  • Lane Keeping Assist – Toyota calls this Steering Assist, and it nudges the vehicle back into the intended lane of travel if it detects a lane departure
  • Lane Centering Assist – Toyota calls this Lane Tracing Assist, and it helps to center the vehicle within the intended lane of travel when the adaptive cruise control is active
  • Automatic High Beam Headlights – Automatically activates the high-beam headlights when it is safe and appropriate to use them
  • Road Sign Recognition – Reads speed limit, stop, yield, and do not enter signs in order to assist the driver

Several of these functions are new, which is why Toyota calls TSS 2.0 a next-generation ADAS technology. The new features include:

  • Daytime bicyclist detection
  • Nighttime pedestrian detection
  • Road edge detection as part of the lane departure warning and lane keeping assist system
  • Lane centering assist
  • Road sign recognition

Taken together, the components of TSS 2.0 represent one of the more comprehensive ADAS suites available as standard equipment on any vehicle, let alone mainstream and affordable models like those from Toyota.

How Does Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 Work?

Toyota Safety Sense Camera
A camera mounted behind the 2019 Toyota RAV4’s windshield helps to power the TSS 2.0 technologies. The white box to the left of it is an E-Z Pass for toll roads. (Christian Wardlaw)

Toyota uses both a camera and radar to power TSS 2.0 systems, which we sampled using a redesigned 2019 Toyota RAV4. Like other suites of ADAS technologies from other car companies, TSS 2.0 is designed to assist but not replace a driver. And, like ADAS from other car companies, TSS 2.0 demonstrates many of the typical faults of these systems.

For example, sometimes the automatic braking engages at inappropriate or inopportune times, or it doesn’t brake early enough, or it brakes too aggressively.

Similarly, acceleration response following a speed reduction or braking event is slow, allowing too large a gap to grow in front of the RAV4 and frustrating drivers following the Toyota. It would be nice if the system attempted to match the acceleration pace of traffic ahead, up to the adaptive cruise control’s pre-set speed.

The biggest irritant, however, is that until a vehicle is completely out of TSS 2.0’s detection range, the RAV4 slows and slows and slows even when it isn’t necessary. This commonly happens when the vehicle ahead drifts onto the shoulder to turn right off of highways, or when people coast slowly into exit ramp lanes on freeways. This trait, in turn, also frustrates drivers behind the RAV4. To alleviate this, the driver can press on the accelerator to override the system, and then release the accelerator to let the system continue in adaptive mode.

In heavy traffic, the adaptive cruise control can bring the RAV4 to a complete stop, and as long as the vehicle ahead moves within a few seconds it automatically continues the journey. Remain stopped for more than a few seconds, and the driver must push the cruise control’s ‘resume’ button or push on the accelerator to re-activate the system.

Toyota has calibrated TSS 2.0 so that it doesn’t aggressively apply the brakes if a car cuts into the gap ahead, allowing vehicles to merge onto highways and to pass through that gap to make last-minute exits from the highway. At the same time, however, if the RAV4 is accelerating and a slower vehicle merges into the space ahead, it doesn’t recognize the vehicle until it is fully in the lane – and then the RAV4 will suddenly brake.

The RAV4’s lane keeping assist system works. Sometimes the steering assistance is abrupt, and sometimes aggravatingly so. But it’s effective. The lane centering assist is less impressive, allowing more lane drift than expected, especially when following traffic ahead. Unlike with similar technology from competing car companies, you cannot let go of the steering wheel for more than a few seconds before you receive a warning to put your hands back on the steering wheel.

Push the automatic high-beam button on the lower part of the dashboard, and a message appears within the instrumentation. It says you must first activate the high-beam headlights by pushing the left steering column stalk (turn signal stalk) forward. Then, in Auto mode, the high beams will automatically activate when conditions are appropriate. I’m not a fan of this design. To use this technology, the left and right steering column stalks are always uneven, which is irritating.

Road sign recognition likely helped me to avoid a speeding ticket. At some point, the speed limit had dropped to 55 mph yet I was barreling along at 74 mph, passing everybody. A glance down at the instrumentation revealed the speed limit on the current stretch of road, and I immediately slowed down to a less conspicuous pace.

The Bottom Line

Gray 2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE
I extensively tested TSS 2.0 in the Boston and Cape Cod regions, using this brand-new Toyota RAV4 XLE. It had 10.1 miles on it when I got the keys. Behind the vehicle are the sand dunes at the Race Point Lighthouse near Provincetown. (Christian Wardlaw)

Toyota deserves commendation for making TSS 2.0 standard on its new and redesigned models, especially at price points just over $20,000. I have no doubt the system will prevent accidents and save lives.

However, it is important to pay attention while using this technology. It is not designed to anticipate or understand all driving situations, and the driver must remain ready to take control at all times. Furthermore, while we did not sample TSS 2.0 under extreme weather conditions, snow, fog, and heavy rain can render the systems inoperable.

In the meantime, TSS 2.0 is a welcome improvement upon Toyota’s comparatively basic TSS-C and more comprehensive but not as sophisticated TSS-P safety system suites.


About the Author

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
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