Section 2. Response to Environmental and Safety Issues
Item 4. Approach to Vehicle Safety
ABS and airbags as standard equipment
Partly due to the expansion of the new vehicle market in the latter half of the 1980s, the number of road accident deaths in Japan in 1988 passed the 10,000 mark for the first time in 13 years, and the Japanese government declared a state of emergency in the following year, 1989. This made taking action on safety an urgent task for the automotive industry, and in the same year JAMA established its Special Committee on Traffic Safety.
At the time, the evolution of electronics meant that automotive safety technology was approaching a turning point exemplified in active safety technology by the appearance of four-wheel anti-lock brake systems (ABS) and in passive safety technology by the introduction of airbag-based supplemental restraint systems.
ABS is a technology that guarantees vehicle stability during braking on slippery road surfaces. On Toyota vehicles, it was first used in 1971 on the Crown as a two-wheel system called Electronic Skid Control (ESC), for control of rear braking, and was successively rolled out to luxury vehicle series. Four-wheel ABS was first fitted in 1983 on the Crown and progressively extended to other models, so that by the end of 1990 it had been adopted in all passenger vehicle series.
An even more-sophisticated vehicle control system developed on the basis of this ABS was Vehicle Stability Control1, the development of which was inspired by watching the movement of tanks on a Japanese Self-Defense Force training ground near the Toyota Higashi-Fuji Technical Center. It was first fitted by Toyota in 1995 on the Majesta i-Four, and then rolled out successively to other vehicle series.
Meanwhile, as a restraint system to supplement seatbelts, airbags were first offered as an option in August 1989 on the Crown (driver's side only), and became standard equipment on the first-generation Celsior released in October of the same year (also driver's side only). Airbags were thereafter applied to an expanding range of vehicles, including the Celica and Carina ED, and within two years rollout to all vehicle series was complete.
From exclusive use in the driver's seat, the use of airbags was extended to the front passenger seat. After making them standard equipment on the Celsior in 1992, Toyota successively extended the range of vehicle series on which they were installed. In 1998, when driver's side and front passenger side installation was fully rolled out, the first-generation Progres adopted the world's first curtain shield airbags, which lessen impact on occupants' heads in the event of a lateral collision. Then, from 2002, installation of knee airbags, which restrain and protect the knees, began with the Caldina.