Toyota Research Institute unveils second-generation autonomous test vehicle


The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) has displayed its all-new second-generation advanced safety research vehicle, which will be used to explore a full range of autonomous driving capabilities.

Toyota’s work on autonomous vehicles in the USA began in 2005 at its technical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The company secured its first US patents in the field in 2006, and according to a report last year by the Intellectual Property and Science division of Thomson Reuters, Toyota holds more patents in the field than any other company. The platform is the second generation of the advanced active safety research vehicle (AASRV) that was unveiled by Toyota at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2013). The first generation semi-autonomous vehicle was built around a Lexus LS and served as a test platform for driver assistance rather than fully autonomous driving technologies. The new vehicle is built on a current generation Lexus LS 600hL, which features a robust drive-by-wire interface.

The series 2.0 vehicle is designed to be a flexible, plug-and-play test platform that can be upgraded continuously and often. The vehicle’s system is computationally rich, focusing heavily on machine vision and machine learning. The layered and overlapping lidar, radar and camera sensor array reduce the need to depend too heavily on high-definition maps, especially for near-term systems, which will be designed for use in areas where such maps do not yet exist. Its technology stack will be used to develop both of TRI’s core research paths: Chauffeur and Guardian systems. Chauffeur refers to the always-deployed, fully autonomous system classified by SAE as unrestricted Level 5 autonomy and Level 4 restricted and geo-fenced operation. Guardian is a high-level advanced driver assist system (ADAS), constantly monitoring the driving environment inside and outside the vehicle, ready to alert the driver of potential dangers, and intervene to assist in crash avoidance.

“This new advanced safety research vehicle is the first autonomous testing platform developed entirely by TRI, and reflects the rapid progress of our autonomous driving program,” said TRI’s CEO, Gill Pratt. “Basically, it is a smart vehicle designed to get smarter over time. It will learn individual driver habits and abilities, and will benefit from shared intelligence from other cars as data gathering, sharing and connectivity technologies advance. We believe Guardian can probably be deployed sooner and more widely than Chauffeur, providing high-level driver-assist features capable of helping mitigate collisions and save lives, sooner rather than later.”

A wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor North America, TRI was established in 2015 and aims to strengthen the company’s research across four initial mandates:

• Enhance the safety of automobiles;

• Increase access to cars to those who otherwise cannot drive;

• Translate Toyota’s expertise in creating products for outdoor mobility into products for indoor mobility;

• Accelerate scientific discovery by applying techniques from artificial intelligence and machine learning.

TRI has offices in Stanford Research Park in Palo Alto, California (TRI-PAL), in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts (TRI-CAM), and in Ann Arbor, Michigan, near the University of Michigan campus (TRI-ANN).

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).