Toyota Unveils Its Semi Autonomous Car At CES

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lexus Robotic Car

 Self-Driving Cars
While Google and other car companies research the possibilities of autonomous vehicles, Toyota and its Lexus division are studying the intermediate step of vehicles equipped with technology that helps drivers make the best decisions. Introduced at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Lexus Advanced Safety Research Vehicle is an LS sedan fitted with three high-def color cameras to detect objects up to almost 500 feet away.
Yesterday during a press conference at CES press conference, Toyota presented its semi-autonomous Lexus Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle, a car designed to take over from you when an accident is about to occur.

This is a research vehicle only at this time, and it's not intended to turn into a Google-style autonomous car. Toyota instead is aiming at creating high-level of driver assistance, with the car using sensors and intelligence to augment the human driver. The sytem is more like a co-pilot, essentially, there to point things out and give you help when you need it. —

Existing high-end Lexus passenger cars already use cameras and radar and lasers and GPS for things like blind-spot awareness, lane detection, and adaptive cruise, and the Lexus research vehicle just takes all those features to the next level in both hardware and software.

The vehicle can detect other cars, track what they're doing, and even tell red lights from green. Here is a more complete list of the features of the Lexus Advanced Safety Research Vehicle:

• A 360-degree LIDAR unit on the roof of the vehicle detects objects around the car up to about 70 meters.

• Three high-definition color cameras detect objects about 150 meters away, including traffic lights using the front camera and approaching vehicles using the side cameras.

• Radars on the front and sides of the vehicle measure the location and speed of objects to create a comprehensive field of vision at intersections.

• A rotary encoder located on a rear wheel measures travel distance and speed of the vehicle.

• An inertial measurement unit on the roof measures acceleration and angle changes to determine vehicle behavior.

• GPS antennas on the roof estimate angle and orientation even before the vehicle is in motion.

Toyota Autonomous Car

Lexus Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle

Toyota Robot Car

The Toyota car and the Google self-driving car, the two are virtually identical in terms of the hardware used. Both rely on a high-end LIDAR on the roof, multiple radars on the sides, GPS and IMU, and a rotary encoder. It therefore seems like a suitable conjecture that the research is pointing to fully robotic control of the driving experience in the not-too-distant future.

That said, each vehicle's computing and software systems are probably very different, and Google, having demonstrated its vehicle in real driving conditions, remains the leader when it comes to fully autonomous behavior.

Toyota did comment that the future of this platform is likely full autonomy, but that the nearer term goals of assistive autonomy are really the focus for the moment. It's a "pure research project," Toyota says, but over the past few years we've seen a substantial amount of trickle-down throughout the industry, and projects like this ensures that our cars will continue to get smarter and safer.


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