In the inevitable march towards a world with self-driving cars on our roads, we appear to have one more step. Toyota has run an autonomous car on open roads, and has stated that it will bring a self-driving car to the consumer market by “around 2020.”
The car was a specially modified Lexus GS performance sedan. It was outfitted with special sensors and performed a series of maneuvers on the Shuto Expressway. The GS merged onto highways, changed lanes, and keeping a safe distance from other vehicles. The feature is called “Highway Teammate,” and will be available in Toyota and Lexus models in the near future.
According to Toyota, the car is able to recognize nearby vehicles and potential road hazards, and it will automatically make appropriate lane changes. Toyota claims that its GS operates the car much the same way as a human one, so it would not be too jarring for the rider. Toyota says this system will be able to handle highways and main roads, but did not confirm if it will be able to handle the complexities of city streets at the moment.
Toyota says the range of self-driving products will be available for customers by somewhere around 2020, when Tokyo is slated to host the Olympic Games.
For reference, General Motors has already been offering its employees rides to work in prototype self-driving vehicles, but has not announced a consumer-ready product. Nissan is saying it will have an autonomous car on Japanese roads by 2016, and Tesla said in July that its driverless cars were “almost ready.” Google is already runnings its autonomous cars on the open road in the U.S., so Toyota will have some catching up to do.