Self-driving cars have been a popular topic lately. Google’s autonomous cars have been cruising around for a while now, and Chevy just announced plans to integrate a fleet of fully autonomous 2017 Chevy Volts into its Warren Technical Center Campus. Now, in a recent press release, Toyota revealed that it has been testing an self-driving Lexus GS on Tokyo’s Shuto Expressway.

The Lexus GS has been fitted with special sensors and the latest artificial intelligence programming that allows it to recognize hazards, make decisions, and take action. Once a driver enters the highway or passes through a toll booth, automated driving can be turned on, and the vehicle will maneuver through traffic without input from the driver. Say hello to Highway Teammate.

The special GS is the newest example of Toyota’s push to evolve the driver-car relationship and its development of advanced safety systems. Toyota will continue to develop the technology and hopes to make it so that mobility means safety, efficiency and freedom for everyone. Toyota plans to put vehicles like the Highway Teamate into production and release them into the market sometime around 2020.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

In addition to reading and adjusting to traffic and road conditions, Highway Teammate must also have the ability to “read” the driver and determine when it is safe to take and give control of the vehicle. Toyota also plans to use its recently announced ITS connect system to allow communication between the vehicle and others on the road, as well as the road infrastructure itself. I for one am still uncomfortable with the idea of self-driving cars. The idea is cool, but at the same time our society is already too dependant on technology as it is. I see a future where there will be almost no need to manually pilot a vehicle, which is convenient for some, but will take a fun part out of life for the rest of us. What do you think?

Lexus GS

2016 Lexus GS High Resolution Exterior
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Read more about the Lexus GS here.

Press Release

Toyota has been testing a new automated driving test vehicle called Highway Teammate, with the aim of launching related products by around 2020. In addition to demonstrating the capabilities of next-generation safety technologies, the vehicle represents Toyota’s view of the evolving driver-car relationship in the age of artificial intelligence.

Toyota believes that interactions between drivers and cars should mirror those between close friends who share a common purpose, sometimes watching over each other and sometimes helping each other out. Toyota refers to this approach as the Mobility Teammate Concept, and Highway Teammate represents an important first effort to give form to this concept.

Toyota Announces "Highway Teammate"
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Highway Teammate has been tested on Tokyo’s Shuto Expressway during a series of maneuvering trials covering a variety of automated functions, including merging onto or exiting highways, and maintaining or changing lanes.
Highway Teammate

Highway Teammate, a modified Lexus GS, features equipment that enables automated driving on highways from the on-ramp all the way through to the off-ramp. It uses on-board technology to evaluate traffic conditions, make decisions and take action during highway driving. This includes merging onto or exiting highways, maintaining or changing lanes, and maintaining inter-vehicle distances.

To engage automated operation, the driver switches to automated driving after passing through a toll gate and entering a highway on-ramp. Highway Teammate is able to pinpoint its position using highly accurate road map data. It also uses multiple external sensors to recognize nearby vehicles and hazards, and selects appropriate routes and lanes depending on the destination. Based on these data inputs, Highway Teammate then automatically operates the steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes to achieve the appropriate speed and driving lines in much the same way as a person would drive.

By successfully combining recognition and decision-making processes with the ability to take action, Highway Teammate embodies the kind of safety technology that is expected to play a key role in future products. Toyota believes that mobility should mean safety, efficiency and freedom, and is ramping up its research into and development of automated driving technologies, with the goal of launching products based on Highway Teammate by around 2020.
Mobility Teammate Concept

Toyota Announces "Highway Teammate"
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Toyota has been researching and developing automated driving technologies since the 1990s. Its aim is to contribute to realizing the ultimate goal of a society that values mobility, which is the elimination of traffic casualties, and to provide everyone, including seniors and the disabled, with the means to freedom of mobility. Toyota uses the name Mobility Teammate Concept to refer to its approach to automated driving: building relationships between people and cars that share the same purpose, like close friends who sometimes watch over each other and sometimes help each other out. This approach acknowledges the utility of automated driving technologies while maintaining the fun experience of driving itself.

Toyota believes there are three types of intelligence that are crucial to the success of the Mobility Teammate Concept:

Driving Intelligence (advanced recognition and predictive decision-making functions);
Connected Intelligence (vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, as exemplified by the recently announced ITS Connect system)
Interactive Intelligence (recognition of driver status, transfer of control between driver and car, etc.)

Toyota Announces "Highway Teammate"
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Toyota will enhance its development of these automated driving technologies with the aim of achieving a society where mobility means safety, efficiency and freedom.

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