Toyota in race to develop self-driving cars

Toyota Motor Corp. announced it plans to produce cars that are fully capable of self-driving on highways by 2020, as it demonstrated its “automated driving” systems in Tokyo today.

Automated driving system can handle highway driving, but city roads trickier

Toyota Motor Corp.'s automated driving test vehicle enters a highway on-ramp in Tokyo on Tuesday. Such cars could be on the roads by 2020, Toyota says. (Koji Sasahara/Associated Press)

Toyota Motor Corp. announced it plans to produce cars that are fully capable of self-driving on highways by 2020, as it demonstrated its "automated driving" systems in Tokyo today.

The Japanese automaker says its automated driving systems have to be activated by a driver, but then can get the vehicle on to the highway, speed up and slow down to suit driving conditions and change lanes where necessary.

Eager to show it is ahead of competitors such as General Motors and upstarts such as Google and Apple in developing the technology, Toyota says its automated driving technology has been under development for a decade.

Toyota demonstrated its technology Tuesday in a modified Lexus GS sedan, but said the self-driving technology is not necessarily headed for the Lexus line.

Chief safety technology officer Moritaka Yoshida said automated driving technology is suitable for highway driving, but not yet ready to be used on roads with pedestrians and bicyclists. However, more ambitious plans are in the works as it further develops the technology.

"Our goal is to offer the freedom of movement to everyone, including the elderly and the disabled," Yoshida said.

Automated technology for 2016 cars

Toyota also demonstrated another automated technology called Intelligent Transportation System, which it has been testing on roads in the Toyota city area and Tokyo.

The system communicates with equipment at street corners to detect oncoming cars, pedestrians and other hazards and warns the driver with a beep. There are currently about 20 such transmission centres in Tokyo neighbourhoods, most near Toyota headquarters.

The cars can also caution the driver when approaching a red light and the vehicle isn't slowing.

The system will be offered as an option in three models going on sale in Japan later this year, including the Crown luxury model.

Toyota's plans are part of a larger Japanese government initiative to pioneer automated driving in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

With files from the Associated Press


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