Toyota presented an autonomous safety car today in Las Vegas, based on the Lexus LS, that demonstrates how today's technology can advance safety.
While dubbed an "autonomous" car, Toyota explains that its approach is to enhance safety, rather than replace the driver. A top-rated luxury sedan, the LS offers a wide array of safety features in regular production trim, including lane assist, blind-spot monitoring, active cruise control, and pre-collision systems. (See our Lexus LS road test.)
For this research vehicle, Toyota engineers have augmented the existing safety features with ability to monitor the environment, and potential hazards, in greater detail.
This LS monitors its surroundings using a roof-mounted, 360-degree laser tracking system and three high-definition cameras. With these devices, the car can detect traffic approaching from all angles and determine the color of traffic lights.
Added to these systems are additional GPS antenna for more directional information and an accelerometer for tracking motion, such as pitch and yaw.
Combined, these systems deliver to the driver much more information about the world than a basic car can, while having the ability to prepare for evasive maneuvers, intercede to avoid a collision, or even brace for impact.
Like other automakers, Toyota is also researching smart infrastructure technologies that allow vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. There may be a day on the horizon when a consumer-owned car could handle the commuting chores, while the driver relaxes, but for now, there is something comforting about even the mindset that the technology is there to aid the driver, rather than replace the driver.
See our complete CES 2013 coverage.