Within five years, the quiet chambers otherwise known as Lexus interiors will become even more tranquil. That’s when Lexus is set to introduce its first fully autonomous controls that may finally allow its customers a snooze behind the wheel.
Unlike the luxury automaker’s first self-driving car—the 2013 Lexus LS that premiered at CES looked like something out of Mad Max—today’s version lacks the heavy body armor of cameras, lasers, and radar. In Japan, Toyota is testing a Lexus GS450h with all of those sensors tucked away. Millimeter-wave radar and lidar scanners are not only in the grille but appear inside additional cutouts in the lower front fascia, on either side of the back bumper, and an enlarged roof spoiler. A visual camera sits in front of the rearview mirror.
Like Volvo’s self-driving feature, the Lexus system is designed for highways. The car can merge, exit, take sweeping curves, and overtake slower vehicles. The infotainment display shows how the computers are managing the throttle, brake, and steering inputs, along with a rendering of live traffic conditions. A button on the steering wheel engages the auto-pilot.
The automaker is currently testing a watered-down version of this technology, Automated Highway Driving Assist, in Japan. When wireless vehicle-to-vehicle communications become standardized, the cruise control would tap into the lead car’s computer and relay its brake and throttle inputs to better keep a safe distance. A version of this driver assist may arrive sooner than 2020.
Toyota has said it would not build a fully-autonomous car and that people, not computers, have the ability to “make the best judgments moving forward.” This on-off system would appear to contradict that message, but the company relates it more to a “close friend” that helps out when needed.
“This approach acknowledges the utility of automated driving technologies while maintaining the fun experience of driving itself,” the company said.
Keep talking like that, Toyota, and you’ll have our continued support.