Toyota‘s luxury arm will benefit from the automaker’s autonomous technology before it trickles down to the masses.
Speaking to Automotive News, Toyota’s executive general manager for autonomous driving, Ken Koibuchi, revealed some details on the automaker’s plans. Toyota will begin integrating its self-driving tech on Lexus vehicles first due to the high cost of the systems, and they will come later to the U.S. “It requires sensors that see a long distance and very high-performance computers, which are very expensive,” said Koibuchi.
Currently, Lexus plans on selling Level 4 self-driving technology in its vehicles in the first half of the 2020s, before it heads to other, cheaper vehicles.
The company’s rollout of autonomous technologies might sound like it lags behind its competitors, but that’s because Toyota sees wider safety benefits of focusing on more basic technologies like lane-trace assist and systems that prevent pedal misapplication. There’s also complications when it comes to developing the tech in the U.S. versus Japan. “Many U.S. roads have blurred lane markers or a variety of different lines drawn on the road,” Koibuchi added. “It’s very difficult. We have not done sufficient verification yet.”
For the most part, Toyota has been developing its self-driving tech in Japan before tweaking it for U.S. driving conditions. But it is finding that to be difficult, so it plans on developing the technology for both markets in parallel. The new Lexus LS for example, has semi-autonomous features that will be available in Japan but not initially in the U.S.
There will be some advanced systems being used in the Lexus LS starting next year, but it will use different sensors that are lower cost, said Lexus International president Yoshihiro Sawa.
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