Toyota Plans to Offer Level 4 Autonomous Rides Next Summer
With nearly every automaker looking toward autonomous vehicles, one would expect to see Toyota, the world's largest automaker, to have a prominent role in driverless technology. But that isn't the case. The Japanese brand has been pretty quiet on the autonomous front, except for saying it plans to have an autonomous vehicle on the market in 2020. That's going to change soon, as Toyota plans to begin a ride-hailing pilot with Level 4 autonomous vehicles in downtown Tokyo next summer.
Level 4 Autonomous Cars Coming To Tokyo
According to a press release from Toyota Research Institute (TRI), Toyota's Level 4 autonomous cars will operate in Tokyo's Odaiba district. The Odaiba district sounds like it will be a difficult place for the semi-autonomous vehicles to drive around as it's a bustling area near a waterfront subcenter.
"Odaiba's complex environment of pedestrians, vehicle traffic, diverse road infrastructure and tall glass buildings provide a challenging setting in which to demonstrate the capabilities of Toyota's automated driving technology," stated TRI in its press release.
Members of the public will have to register to be given a ride and individuals, we're guessing only a specific number of them, will actually be selected to participate. The rides are only being given during a short window of time, too, from July to September – perfectly coinciding with the Olympic Games. The rides are expected to be relatively short, as the cars will only operate within a certain geofenced area. Following Japanese law, a safety driver will be present in the vehicle at all times.
TRI's Utilizing Its Chauffeur Program
The semi-autonomous vehicles will be running TRI's "Chauffeur" software program that has been integrated into a fifth-gen Lexus LS sedan. Previous, Toyota, has stated that the Chauffeur system is "focused on full autonomy, where the human is essentially removed from the driving equation, either completely in all environments, or within a restricted driving domain." Toyota has been testing its P4 platform here in the U.S. at the automaker's Ottawa Lake, Michigan facility.
Toyota has another semi-autonomous system called "Guardian." That's more of an advanced driver-assist system and isn't meant to be a fully autonomous system. Either way, neither Guardian nor Chauffeur are offered with production cars today. That might change after next summer, but Toyota's using the program as a way of showing the world what it's been up to.
"By challenging ourselves to successfully operate autonomously in Odaiba, we have set a high bar that requires us to rapidly expand the capabilities of our technology in a short amount of time," said TRI CEO Gill Pratt.
TRI was established in 2015 with the goal of overtaking the majority of Toyota's autonomous and safety technologies. Artificial intelligence is also a part of the TRI's plans. Last year, Toyota and Uber came together in a $500 million investment to work on a joint self-driving project. Developing driverless vehicles is a part of the partnership.
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