Toyota (NYSE: TM) has finally unveiled its self-driving car which was actually a Lexus LS 600hl in Sonoma, California, on March 3.
The vehicle looks much like autonomous cars from other companies like Uber. Toyota’s car is covered with LIDAR (light detecting and ranging) sensors that enable to “see” much like those from Uber or Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG). The Toyota system apparently uses far more sensors than some of its competitors.
A few details about the car’s capabilities are available. Eletrek reported that the Toyota autonomous control system will offer owners two levels of assistance.
When the system is in Chauffeur mode it will always be on and be fully autonomous; which means capable of driving itself. The Guardian mode will assist the driver by monitoring the environment and alerting him or her to dangers. It can also step in when the driver needs assistance.
Toyota’s $1 billion investment
This is the first fruit of Toyota’s $1 billion effort to develop autonomous vehicles at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, through the Toyota Research Institute. The Institute has a major brain in charge Dr. Gill Pratt, an artificial intelligence expert who formerly worked at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA a think tank that develops new technologies for the US military.
Back in November 2015, Pratt told the media that the institute’s goals are to make cars easier to drive, increase safety, and increase mobility for seniors and the disabled.
Toyota hopes to roll some of the self-driving technology out in Japan in 2020 or 2021, Eletrek reported. Despite the investment Toyota is clearly behind some of its major competitors including Ford (NYSE: F), Daimler and Tesla in the self-driving vehicle race.
Although it might soon catch up the current autonomous vehicle looks as advanced as anything from Ford or Uber. The next big challenge for companies like Toyota will be putting an autonomous car into production. That might be tougher than developing and testing the technology.