Toyota tests autonomous driving technology at CES

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Toyota TRI-P4 1
Toyota Research Institute’s TRI-P4 automated-driving test vehicle is a Lexus LS sedan fitted with self-driving systems.

THE Toyota Research Institute (TRI) on Jan. 7 at the 2019 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas unveiled the TRI-P4 automated-driving test vehicle. The P4 is a fifth-generation Lexus LS sedan fitted with autonomous driving systems TRI is developing under its Chauffeur and Guardian programs.

TRI explained Chauffeur is focused on fully autonomous driving technologies in which “the human is essentially removed from the driving equation, either completely in all environments, or within a restricted driving domain.”

Ryan Eustice, senior vice-president for automated driving at TRI, continued Guardian is geared toward making a driver perform better — not replace him or her. The executive noted the P4, set to join TRI’s fleet of self-drive cars, will help “accelerate the development” of the Chauffeur and Guardian programs

TRI said the P4 uses Lexus’s latest chassis and steering technologies, making it more responsive and smoother when the car is driving itself. To do this, it relies on two additional cameras to improve situational awareness on the sides and two new imaging sensors — one facing forward and one pointed to the rear — specifically designed for autonomous vehicles. A modified radar system improves close-range detection.

Carried over from previous Lexus test cars is the LIDAR sensing system, which has eight scanning heads.

Toyota TRI-P4 2
The P4’s trunk contains the “brain” of the automated driving system.

TRI said the “P4 is a much smarter research vehicle than its predecessor” due largely to “greater computing power [that allows] its systems to operate more machine learning algorithms.” The car can process sensor inputs faster and react more quickly to the surrounding environment, TRI noted.

It added the computer box in the P4’s trunk — the “brain” of the automated driving system — is now mounted vertically against the rear seat. This frees up the car’s trunk for hauling cargo.

“We took a holistic approach to integrating autonomous components into the design of the new LS,” said Scott Roller, senior lead designer at CALTY Design Research, which TRI tasked to handle the car’s styling. “The result is a fluid surface embracing advanced technology loosely inspired by science fiction in the graphic separations between form and function.”

TRI said Toyota Motor North America’s prototype development center will begin converting more LS sedans into P4 in the first quarter of 2019.