LAS VEGASToyota and its Lexus division today officially took the wraps off autonomous vehicle technology that could eventually lead to a self-driving car.
The company stressed that the vehicle isn’t exactly going to be driving itself around the Las Vegas Convention Center this week. The vehicle – based on a Lexus LS – has “key components [that]could lead to a fully autonomous car in the future.” At this point, however, the car “is not necessarily a car that drives itself.”
Instead, the technologies added to Toyota’s vehicle are currently intended to enhance the driver’s skills. “In our pursuit of developing more advanced automated technologies, we believe the driver must be fully engaged,” said Mark Templin, Toyota group vice president and general manger of the Lexus Division. “For Toyota and Lexus, a driverless car is just a part of the story. Our vision is a car equipped with an intelligent, always-attentive co-pilot whose skills contribute to safer driving.”
The vehicle on display here can scan the movement of the objects around it up to 70 meters away, thanks to a 360-degree LIDAR laser on its roof. It can also detect the difference between a red and green light up to 150 meters away via three, high-definition color cameras on the front and side of the vehicle.
The car also includes radar on its front and side, which measures the location and speed of objects to create a full field of vision at intersections. On the rear wheel, meanwhile, there’s a distance measurement indicator that picks up travel distance and vehicle speed. An intertial measurement unit on the roof also keeps tabs on acceleration of angle changes, while GPS antennas estimate angle and orientation.
To boost its intelligent car research, Toyota in November opened a new facility that will focus on the technology. The 8.6-acre area, located within the Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in Japan, is basically a mini city, complete with roads and traffic signals, where Toyota can simulate real-life traffic situations.
Toyota boasted that the 2013 Lexus LS has the “most advanced” pre-collision system, which is intended to help avoid or lessen the impact of collisions. That includes an upgraded Lane-Keep Assist system (LKA), enhanced Blind Spot Monitor (BSM), and a Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) that warns drivers about other cars while backing up. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), meanwhile, monitors cars around it and can speed up and slow down based on conditions.
News of a Toyota self-driving car first popped up last week in a five-second video that seemed to show a vehicle zipping along the highway without a driver. The tagline read: “Lexus advanced active safety research vehicle is leading the industry into a new automated era.”
Audi also reportedly has plans to unveil its own autonomous car at CES this week. An Audi spokesperson told the New York Times last week that, in addition to driving, the car will also be able to find parking spaces and park itself.
Until now, Google has been the company making all the headlines on self-driving cars. The search giant, however, said its focus has been on the software and Google has no plans to actually build a car. At this point, Google is testing its tech on a Toyota Prius.
For more, see Will Google Make Money Off the Self-Driving Car?