Toyota debuts advanced automated driving in Lexus LS and Toyota Mirai

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Toyota has steered clear of labeling its system self-driving or autonomous. Toyota instead calls its systems automated, a nod to the system’s reliance on human interaction. The new Advanced Drive package was developed under the Mobility Teammate concept Toyota has been working on for years. It’s called Toyota Teammate at Toyota and Lexus Teammate at the premium brand.

The system uses lidar, cameras, radar and high-precision maps to help it drive. Machine learning is leveraged to help monitor and makes sense of the car’s surroundings. It also incorporates the ability for over-the-air updates to easily add new functionality to the car after purchase.

A camera also monitors the driver to make sure the person behind the wheel is attentive and ready to take over if necessary. The system requires such confirmation in order to execute certain functions, such as lane changing. The driver must also hold the wheel while changing lanes.

The driver-monitoring camera is supplied by Toyota Group supplier Aisin Corp.

The new system will be able to navigate a series of highway driving scenarios, including keeping the vehicle in its lane, maintaining vehicle-to-vehicle distance, lane splits, changing lanes and overtaking other vehicles. It also features an automated parking assist that supports steering, braking, acceleration and gear changing to help guide the car, with a bird’s-eye view display.

Denso Corp., also of the Toyota Group, already supplies the forward radar, forward stereo camera and electronic control unit found in the previous Lexus Safety System+. For Advanced Drive, Denso also supplies one more sensor and an additional ECU.

Chipmakers Nvidia and Renesas also supply processing power for Toyota’s new system.

The new models are Toyota’s first products brought to the market that provide over-the-air updates and utilize AI technology centered on deep learning, said Toyota executive James Kuffner, who is also the head of Toyota’s research unit Woven Planet.

“This is really an important first step in our journey toward software-first development,” he said at an online briefing on Thursday, adding that the company has tried to design the software to be truly global and to provide re-usability.

In the future, software features on cars will be “upgradable” and “more customizable” much like how people personalize their smartphones, Kuffner said.

Fully self-driven cars are still likely to be years away, but General Motors early this year made a splash at the virtual Consumer Electronics Show with a fully-autonomous all-electric flying Cadillac concept, while Chinese search engine operator Baidu unveiled a partnership with local car brand Geely.

Toyota’s domestic competitor, Honda, last month unveiled a partially self-driving Legend sedan in Japan, becoming the world’s first carmaker to sell a vehicle equipped with new, certified level 3 automation technology.

Reuters contributed to this report

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Saurabh Shukla

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