Today, Lexus at CES (News - Alert) held a press conference to announce that it’s working on building more intelligence into its vehicles to increase safety in a world in which there were 32,000 U.S. traffic fatalities in 2011. But while both Toyota and Lexus have previously announced safety features in their vehicles and efforts to expand on that with cars that continually scan their surroundings, the message of today’s meeting that seemed to resonate the loudest was the pronouncement that the commercialization of such super-intelligent vehicles appears to be well into the future.
“Our guess is not in the immediate future” will such a product be available in the marketplace, said Mark Templin, group vice president and general manager at Lexus, who made this pronouncement while standing in front of a research vehicle equipped with cameras on its roof.
Here are the details on the research vehicle Lexus showed at today’s CES press conference, according to the press release: “The Lexus advanced active safety research vehicle is equipped with an array of sensors and automated control systems to observe, process and respond to the vehicle’s surroundings. These include GPS, stereo cameras, radar and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) laser tracking. The vehicle systems are capable of tasks such as scanning movement of objects around it, identifying a green light from a red light and measuring the trajectory of the vehicle on the road. A 360-degree LIDAR laser on the roof of the vehicle detects objects around the car up to about 70 meters. Three high definition color cameras detect objects about 150 meters away, including traffic light detection using the front camera and approaching vehicles using the side cameras. Radars on the front and sides of the vehicle measure the location and speed of objects to create a comprehensive field of vision at intersections. A distance measurement indicator located on a rear wheel measures travel distance and speed of the vehicle. An inertial measurements unit on the roof measures acceleration and angle changes to determine vehicle behavior. GPS antennas on the roof estimate angle and orientation even before the vehicle is in motion.”
Based on Templin’s comments, it would seem the challenge to getting such vehicles to market would be both in terms of technology and in terms of culture. It takes time to combine human and computer intelligence, he said, but step by step Toyota and Lexus will build trust with humans and society to leverage more computer intelligence in an effort to increase safety.
“Technology is important, but technology alone is not the answer,” he added.
That said, the research vehicle builds on safety features like anti-lock brakes, traction control, Smart Stop Technology, Lane-Keep Assist, Blind Spot Monitor and the Pre-Collision System already found in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles. In fact, Templin noted, the 2013 Lexus LS offers an advanced Pre-Collision System that helps motorists avoid or mitigate collisions with vehicles or pedestrians.
Additional work on the safety front is taking place at special facilities called TRINA in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the ITS Proving Ground in Japan.