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CES: Toyota to wheel out autonomous 3.0

Take a selfie: Toyota’s experimental autonomous driving technology sensors might be a little sleeker on its latest prototype, but still protrude in an ungainly manner.

Autonomous Lexus test car points to new-gen LS auto driving technologies

5 Jan 2018

TOYOTA plans to unveil its new and improved third-generation autonomous vehicle research prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) at Las Vegas next week.

Based on a Lexus LS600hL, the vehicle is the first of a fleet of such test cars to be turned out by Toyota’s North American prototype workshop in Detroit in readiness to ramp up trials in the United States this year.

The choice of the current-model LS for this research is poignant, as Toyota has indicated it will incorporate autonomous driving technology in the upcoming fifth-generation Lexus LS during its lifecycle, probably in 2020. The new LS is due to arrive in Australia in the second half of this year.

Toyota says its latest technology – called Platform 3.0 – now provides a 360-degree scope with a “dramatic increase in range” to 200 metres, along with improved data density over its previous autonomous vehicle test system.

It says it also got its Californian-based Calty design studio to tone down the design of the various sensors plastered over the car to make them blend more in to the vehicle.

While the big roof-mounted lidar scanner is still plainly obvious, it does look more streamlined and integrated than some similar systems that sprout out of the turret like a spinning bucket.

Other sensors protrude from the flanks of the car, leaving observers still in no doubt that the vehicle is something different.

The engineers at the Silicon Valley-based Toyota Research Institute (TRI) used the space normally taken by the sunroof to minimise the height of the rooftop pod that houses four spinning lidar sensors that now can scan for potential hazards in all directions instead of just to the front.

Weirdly, Toyota designers describe the design of the pod as being inspired by off-road motorcycle helmets.

Toyota says production of the test vehicles will be kept low because TRI is rapidly advancing its autonomous technology, meaning running changes to future vehicles. In the past year alone, TRI has issued three major updates for its system.

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