Toyota will put automated vehicle technology to the ultimate trial next year, by letting the public experience a self-driving Lexus in Tokyo.
Not only will the ‘TRI-P4’ automated test vehicle tackle the streets of one of the busiest cities on the planet, it will do it in the Odaiba district during the 2020 Summer Olympics.
It all makes for an extremely high-profile demonstration of Toyota’s automated technology, which has previously been conducted on the safety of a test track.
No small talk with this chauffeur
The Lexus LS 500h sedan was added to Toyota’s research and development fleet earlier this year, following a debut at the Detroit Auto Show. Much of the testing so far has been conducted at the company’s facility in Ottawa Lake, MI, which opened in October 2018.
The chosen Tokyo suburb of Odaiba features complex road systems, high volumes of traffic, and numerous glass-fronted buildings to potentially trick the cameras of the automated research vehicle. But all of this is necessary to fully test the ‘SAE Level 4’ technology incorporated into this Lexus sedan.
Level 4 means that the car is capable of driving without human input in specific conditions. For the Lexus TRI-P4, this means operating in ‘Chauffeur Mode’, where humans simply become passengers as the car does all the work.
Seeing things from all sides
To operate autonomously, the TRI-P4 features a number of cameras and imaging sensors, giving 360-degree coverage of the car. A radar system, along with a special LIDAR laser array to monitor and react to danger. To comply with Japanese law, a Toyota Safety Driver will be present in the TRI-P4 during the passenger journeys.
The service will operate from July to September 2020, with members of the public will be invited to register their interest in autonomous chauffeur rides. Lucky individuals will be selected nearer the time to go for a ride.
Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt commented that: ““By challenging ourselves to successfully operate autonomously in Odaiba, we have set a high bar that requires us to rapidly expand the capabilities of our technology in a short amount of time”.
Further testing of the TRI-P4 will take place on public roads in Odaiba, around TRI’s facilities in both Ann Arbor, MI and Los Altos, CA.