The Japanese company is working on two autonomous research paths.
Toyota is continuing its autonomous adventure with the launch of the second generation “advanced safety research vehicle,” which was introduced at the company’s Prius Challenge event in Sonoma California. The Japanese manufacturer claims it holds more patents in the field of self-driving machines than any other company, citing a report from Intellectual Property and Science division of Thomson Reuters. The automaker’s autonomous project started in 2005 at its technical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is now continued through Toyota Research Institute (TRI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota, established in 2015.
“This new advanced safety research vehicle is the first autonomous testing platform developed entirely by TRI, and reflects the rapid progress of our autonomous driving program,” TRI CEO Gill Pratt commented.
The test platform is based on the current generation Lexus LS 600hL and features a drive-by-wire interface. The second generation of the prototype is designed to be “a flexible, plug-and-play test platform that can be upgraded continuously and often.” It will be used from Toyota to develop the two core research paths TRI is working on: Chauffeur and Guardian systems.
The first one refers to the fully autonomous systems, classified by SAE as Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy. The Guardian path refers to assist systems of highest levels, capable of monitoring the driving process, giving alerts to the driver and even stepping in when needed.
Toyota says the improved prototype is a “smart vehicle” designed to learn and “get smarter over time.” It will study different driver habits and will benefit from data gathered by other similar vehicles. The company believes “Guardian can probably be deployed sooner and more widely than Chauffeur” and promises Automatic Emergency Braking will be standard equipment on nearly all U.S.-sold Toyota models by the end of 2017 – about five years ahead of NHTSA’s 2022 target date.