Toyota's pre-crash safety system enhancement which can determine if a driver's eyes are properly open - a claimed world first - will be available only in Japan for the foreseeable future, a Europe-based official said on Thursday.

"At this moment we have no specific plans outside of Japan for this new technology," Toyota Motor Europe spokesman Etienne Plas told just-auto.

"It might come in the future of course, but unfortunately I cannot be more specific."

Toyota Motor Europe already offers a pre-crash safety system - including a steering column-mounted device which can tell if a driver is not looking ahead - as standard or optional on its flagship Lexus models. The system is also available in other markets world-wide.

Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan this week said  it expects the new eye-monitoring feature, along with the system's current ability to determine the direction of the driver's face, to play an important role in reducing collision-related damage.

The system, "scheduled for launch in Japan in the near future", uses a driver-monitoring camera and image-processing computer to determine the position of the driver's upper and lower eyelids.

If the system senses that a collision is imminent and also determines that the driver's eyes are not properly open - or, by using the face-monitoring feature, determines that the driver is not facing forward - it issues a warning to the driver earlier than it would without such driver-condition information.

A Toyota official this week said that, although the latest safety device cannot detect all drowsy drivers, it would help reduce traffic accidents.

Graeme Roberts