Toyota to Show Up At CES 2018 with a Next-Gen Lexus-Based Autonomous Concept
The Toyota Research Institute has announced plans to bring its next-generation Platform 3.0 automated driving vehicle to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week. Platform 3.0 is an autonomous test car that’s built on a real-life Lexus LS600hL. According to TRI, the test car incorporates sensors and cameras into its body, a development that does away with today’s setup of installing these elements as attachments on the body of the car. In addition, Platform 3.0 also has a panel of sensors on the roof that helps it become one of the most perceptive autonomous test vehicles on the road today.
2017 Lexus LS+ Concept
The fifth-generation Lexus LS just hit the market this year, but the Japanese automaker is already looking ahead into the future with a new concept for its flagship sedan that’s heavy on state-of-the-art technology. The concept is called the LS+, and if you were thinking it to be outlandish in the typical Lexus concept fashion, then you’d be right. The LS+ Concept is a feast for the senses in more ways than one.
We already have an idea of how Lexus does concept vehicles. The NX Concept from a few years ago blasted our expectations through the roof, and it’s nice to see that Toyota’s premium brand isn’t letting up. This car, Lexus says, is going to be a showcase of what the LS could look like down the road. It’s not a certainty that this blueprint will be put to use in the future, but as far as giving us a taste of what could come, then it hits all the right spots. It looks the part of a futuristic concept though more important than that are the litany of tech features that it comes with, including the curiously named “Highway Teammate” automated driving technology that brings autonomous driving tech to life. That’s just one of the technology goodies we can expect from the LS+ Concept, so expect a whole lot more now that the full-sized beauty is sitting pretty at the Tokyo Motor Show.
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Apple’s Self-Driving Lexus Spotted On Public Roads
In case you hadn’t heard, Apple is secretly developing self-driving car technology, and earlier this week, one of the tech giant’s autonomous test mules was possibly spotted out and about on California streets. Made public in a brief video clip posted to Twitter, the car in question is a late-model Lexus RX SUV with what appears to be a roof full of cameras, radar equipment, lidar, and various other sensors critical to self-driving operation. Making the spot was MacCallister Higgins, co-founder of Voyage, a rival self-driving tech startup, who seems convinced that the car is indeed of Apple origin. In response to Higgins’ short video clip, Twitter user @idiggapple posted a pic of the same Lexus (or one that looks very similar), which apparently pulled up to an Apple shuttle stop briefly before departing.
By all accounts, it certainly looks like this is indeed Apple’s latest test mule. The company has already been approved for public testing of autonomous Lexus RX vehicles, the previous iterations of which have made headlines after showing up at random intervals around the Bay Area. To us, this definitely looks like the car is gathering data for self-driving software development, although the car could also be used for mapping purposes, another activity that lends itself to self-driving tech development.
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Lexus’ Lane Valet is the Autonomous Tech We Really Need
So now that April 1st has come and gone, and the world has managed to separate fact from fiction, I want to talk about one April Fool’s joke that shouldn’t be a joke at all: Lexus’ Lane Valet. Obviously, it was a complete joke that was set into motion a bit early, but how many times have you found yourself raging behind the wheel because some inconsiderate, self-righteous, pole smoker in a BMW, Mercedes, or even a Lexus is cruising down the left lane at five mph below the speed limit? Or, how about mom and pop lost on a Sunday drive? Personally, it happens to me all of the time, and it pisses me off. After all, I’m important and have important stuff to do.
Of course, we don’t have anything like Lane Valet, so my method of combatting the situation is to wait for a clearing, zip around the prick who thinks he owns the left lane, and flip the bird out the moonroof on my way through as I proceed on my mission to break the speed limit and get to my destination 1.3 minutes sooner than I would if I had abided by the law. But, that isn’t the point. The point is, get the hell out of the way. I’m sure a lot of you important folks feel the same way.
So, with that said, I say that this technology needs to become a real thing in the near future. It will be perfect for that period of time that falls between the mass introduction of connected cars and when we’re outlawed from driving ourselves anyway. Hell, I would have used the technology three times this morning on my way to the office, so why not? Anyway, check out the video and let me know what you think.
Google’s Self-Driving Car Involved In Another Road Accident
Google’s self-driving Lexus RX450h hybrid SUV was involved in a car accident near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California after a commercial van ran a red light on an intersection and blowing through the side of the SUV, causing significant damage to the car. Fortunately, neither the truck driver nor the human driver on-board the RX450h were hurt from the incident.
The tech giant was quick to release a statement about the crash, emphasizing that the self-driving car wasn’t at fault of the crash. According to the statement, the self-driving car’s traffic light was at green “for at least six seconds” before it entered the intersection. The car, which was piloting itself at the time of accident, was going about its business when the van ran its red light. The driver inside the SUV ultimately applied the brakes but it was too late as the van hit the SUV clean in the side, resulting in the latter to have to towed away in a flatbed trailer.
Incidents like this have already plagued Google’s development of autonomous driving technology, including multiple instances wherein its cars have been rear-ended in slow-moving traffic. This particular incident though is the first time one of the tech’s giants self-driving cars has figured into a high-speed crash.
Google is expected to release a more detailed report about the crash towards the end of the month, but the incident also highlights one of the significant challenges attributed to the development of autonomous driving vehicles. As advanced as these cars are expected to become, they still can’t account for the behavior of other drivers on the road, particularly those who don’t pay as much attention on the road when they’re driving as they should.
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Google Exec Explains Crash Caused By Autonomous Vehicle
Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car project, took the stage at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas to shed some light on the circumstances surrounding the road accident caused by one of the tech giant’s autonomous vehicles. Word of the crash only made the news last week even though the actual collision between Google’s self-driving Lexus RX and a city transit bus occurred on February 14, 2016.
At the conference, Urmson explained that all of Google’s autonomous vehicles have been taught to move to the right-most lane when they plan to turn right, something all human drivers are also taught to do. The RX did just that, but just before it was supposed to turn right, it detected sand bags on the road ahead it, prompting it to make a sudden stop.
Once the light turned green, the car prepared to take the lane to the left, but not before detecting a city bus that it anticipated would slow down to give way to the car. But the bus didn’t slow down and just as the car was making the lane change, it hit the side of the bus at two mph, resulting in minor damages to both vehicles.
No one was injured from the mishap, but seeing as Google assumed responsibility for causing the crash, Urmson’s team immediately began implementing “3,500 new tests” to ensure that its autonomous cars wouldn’t be responsible for another crash of that nature again. These tests don’t cover the system of just one autonomous vehicle. On the contrary, the self-driving team said that the tech is fed through its fleet of autonomous cars through deep learning technology, enabling all the Google cars to share these tests and experiences from real-world driving situations. The tech giant believes that situations like the one can be used as a learning tool for its entire fleet of cars, ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.
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Google’s Self-Driving Lexus RX Crashes Into Commuter Bus
One of Google’s self-driving vehicles, in this case a Lexus RX, figured into an accident with a transit bus last February 14, 2016 in Mountain View, California. Ironically, the crash occurred within a cartwheel’s distance of the tech giant’s headquarters.
The crash occurred when the autonomous SUV attempted to switch lanes to avoid some sand bags, incorrectly assuming that the bus approaching from behind would either slow down or stop completely to let the car make the lane switch. Neither ended up happening and the RX smacked right into the side of the bus. The RX ended up damaging its front fender, wheel, and a self-driving sensor.
Thankfully, the crash happened at low speeds – the autonomous SUV was angling towards the center lane at two mph while the bus was traveling at 15 mph. Nobody was hurt from the accident and all the passengers of the bus were transferred to a new bus to continue their commute.
Google has since released a statement, saying that it shouldered “some responsibility” for the accident, saying that it could’ve avoided the ordeal entirely if it had just waited for the bus to pass before making the lane switch. That said, it also chalked up the incident to a simple “misunderstanding” that happens routinely on the road every day in all parts of the world.
Since the accident, Google also said that it had reviewed the incident and has made important refinements to its software so that its cars have a clearer understanding of the behavior of public transit vehicles in cases like the one it was involved in.
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