Toyota Redesigning Autonomous Car Tech to Widen Driving Capabilities

  • Natalie Mattila
  • March 15, 2017

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Toyota Research Institute is re-architecting the technology underlying the Guardian driver-assist system, to support Toyota’s autonomous cars with more capabilities to access a wider expanse of roadways, Auto Finance News has learned.

Toyota unveiled its first autonomous car last week, a Lexus LS 600hL test vehicle equipped with LiDAR, camera arrays, and radar, to enable self-driving without relying too heavily on high-definition maps.

The vehicle is the base for two of the automaker’s autonomous research paths: Guardian and Chauffeur.

Chauffeur refers to the fully autonomous system classified as unrestricted Level 5 autonomy and Level 4 geo-fenced operation — meaning the vehicle is restricted to certain geographical areas, such as a city or interstates. Guardian is a driver-assist system that monitors the driving environment, alerting the driver of potential dangers and stepping in to assist in crash avoidance when necessary.

Like most of its big OEM rivals, Toyota is actively pursuing full autonomous technology. But Toyota Research Institute (TRI), Toyota Motor Corp.’s research facility in Silicon Valley, has also put a lot of work into its driver-assist system, Ryan Eustice, vice president of autonomous driving, told Auto Finance News.

“The big things we are rethinking in our approach in technology, is with the Guardian system, we really expect to have a baseline level of capability for the car to be able to [to do] three things: don’t leave the road, don’t get hit, and don’t hit others. We are [wanting] the technology that is the bedrock of our system to support that type of capability across a wide expanse of roads.”

As such, TRI is making location capabilities — without relying on high-definition maps — as one of its top priorities in the development of its autonomous cars, Eustice said.

“In a lot of the technology approaches in autonomous driving, maps play a significant role in us being able to field these systems. In a Guardian application, I would say that the wanting to drive anywhere, anytime of that aspect, challenges map coverage. We are rearchitecting our system right now to think about more capability with less prior knowledge. We really think of the Guardian system like a smart car, so a car that really learns through time and gets better; it learns your driver habits, learns your commute, and it’s actually able to increase its capability through time.”

Toyota’s Lexus LS 600hL test vehicle is part of a billion-dollar investment into TRI that Toyota announced in late 2015. Toyota hopes to have a version of Guardian on the market by 2020, with the first geo-fenced version of Chauffeur arriving a few years later.

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