10/7/2015 | 1 MINUTE READ

Toyota Targets 2020 for Autonomous Driving Systems

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Toyota Motor Corp. today demonstrated autonomous vehicle functionality on a modified Lexus GS.

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Toyota Motor Corp. today demonstrated autonomous vehicle functionality on a modified Lexus GS. The vehicle automatically merged onto a highway near Tokyo, then maintained and changed lanes and kept a constant following distance from other vehicles.

Toyota hopes to commercialize the technology, which it has been testing under its Highway Teammate program for several months, by about 2020. Several other carmakers, including General Motors and Nissan, also are targeting a 2020 timeframe for launching autonomous vehicle systems. Companies already are beginning to offer semi-autonomous features on production vehicles.

In the prototype Lexus GS, Toyota used next-generation mapping technology to more precisely monitor a vehicle's location and position within a lane. The test vehicle also was fitted with 12 advanced sensors, including a camera behind the front mirror, six lasers to monitor the relative position of objects around the vehicle and five radar units to track the speed of nearby vehicles and other moving objects.

During the demonstration, the driver activated automated driving mode by pressing a button on the steering wheel as the car approached the highway entrance ramp. The vehicle then merged onto the highway and made lane maneuvers without any driver inputs. As it exited the highway, an audio alert prompted the driver to retake control of steering and throttle functions.

The technologies build on the semi-autonomous Safety Sense features Toyota launched earlier this year. The active safety package, which uses millimeter-wave radar and a single-lens camera along with adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert and adaptive headlights, is designed to slow or stop a vehicle if a collision is imminent or a pedestrian is detected.

The carmaker also is introducing vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems in Japan, starting with the just-launched Crown luxury sedan and redesigned Prius hybrid car. Such technologies, which allow vehicles to share information with each other and road sensors, are considered key building blocks for fully autonomous operation.

Toyota claims to be the first carmaker to market so-called intelligent transportation systems over a dedicated public frequency. But it notes that the cost of sensors must be significantly reduced to make the technology commercially viable for mass-market vehicles