You’re expecting us to tell you that Lexus just debuted some pie-in-the-sky self-driving concept, basically making its own version of Google’s autonomous car. And guess what? You’re only partially correct, as Lexus did show a mostly autonomous version of its 2013 LS sedan at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
But the announcement coincided with Toyota’s ongoing development of new safety technologies, and it says that what we were shown today with its self-driving LS will be gradually trickling into market.
“We may never have a truly autonomous car,” says Toyota’s Jim Pisz, corporate manager of Toyota’s North American business strategy. But he said much of the technology in the research car is already in the 2013 Lexus LS.
Take, for instance, the Integrated Safety Research vehicle’s active cruise control, which can slow a car down to a stop and then accelerate it back up to 125 mph, if that’s where the cruise control is set. Lexus says the similar unit in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class isn’t that smart.
Mark Templin, Toyota group vice president and general manger of the Lexus Division, presented the safety research vehicle this morning, affirming says that a self-driving car isn’t where Lexus plans to devote its resources.
“In our pursuit of developing more advanced automated technologies, we believe the driver must be fully engaged,” he said. “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.
“A more skillful driver is a safer driver,” he continued.
The Lexus LS concept at the Consumer Electronics Show uses a 360-degree LIDAR mounted atop its roof for object detection of up to 70 meters away. The cameras mounted up front are for reading stoplights and detecting pedestrians. The Integrated Safety Research vehicle also uses the cameras, GPS, and sensors equipped in the Lexus LS you can buy to further control the car.
Pisz says computers manage the three core functions of the Integrated Safety car: recognition of images through its cameras and sensors, judgment based in real time, and operations that send the decision to the car. Toyota says that each of them go towards helping make the driver safer and more skilled on the road, whether with smarter lane-departure warning technology or better cameras to prevent collisions at blind intersections.
Toyota is working to jointly develop its safety technology between its Ann Arbor, Michigan, along with the University of Michigan, and at its new 8.6-acre Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in Susono City, Japan. As the federal government is set to start writing laws this year regarding car-to-car connectivity, autonomous vehicles, and other new safety technologies, Toyota aims to be at the forefront of whatever may come next.