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CES 2013: Toyota reveals safety research car

The latest autonomous vehicle takes the road as the most fully-loaded Lexus yet.

By AutoWeek Jan 8, 2013 11:51AM




One day before the International Consumer Electronics Show opened its doors in Las Vegas, Toyota took the wraps off the highest-tech Lexus LS ever made.


The car -- with spinning sensors and probing lasers galore -- is meant to demonstrate safety features that could be coming to production cars someday soon.


Called the Advanced Safety Research Vehicle, it sure looked like some of the autonomous self-driving vehicles we saw at the DARPA Challenge, but Toyota stressed that a robot car is not the goal.


“While key components of these research efforts could lead to a fully autonomous car in the future, the vision is not necessarily a car that drives itself,” a Toyota statement read. “Instead, Toyota and Lexus envision technologies that enhance the skills of the driver, believing a more skillful driver is a safer driver.”


Those technologies -- all bolted and strapped to the outside of the big luxury sedan -- are pretty impressive:

  • A 360-degree LIDAR laser on the roof that detects objects around the car up to about 230 feet away.
  • Three high-definition color cameras that detect objects up to 500 feet away, including traffic lights and even vehicles approaching from the side.
  • One radar on the front of the vehicle and three on the sides to measure the location and speed of objects, for comprehensive views at intersections.
  • A distance measurement indicator located on a rear wheel to measure travel distance and speed of the vehicle.
  • An inertial measurement unit on the roof to gauge acceleration and angle changes to determine vehicle behavior.
  • GPS antennae on the roof to estimate angle and orientation even before the vehicle is in motion.


“The research vehicle is a testing platform aimed at the development of systems capable of enhancing the driver's perception of their environment, assisting in the decision-making process and improving overall driving skills,” Toyota said.


The Advanced Safety Research Vehicle also incorporates systems already on Toyota and Lexus vehicles, such as ABS, Lane-Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.


Some of the most advanced components of the car will allow it to use short wave signals to communicate with other vehicles and with roadside sensors. The program even gets its own 8.6-acre Intelligent Transportation System proving grounds at Toyota's Higachi-Fuji Technical Center in Japan. Those communications will alert drivers to impending collisions at blind intersections, vehicles changing lanes in a blind spot and potential rear collisions with a vehicle stopped ahead.


“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.”


-- Mark Vaughn

 

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