Toyota self-driving cars by 2020

Toyota has unveiled its vision for self-driving cars, promising to start selling autonomous vehicles in Japan by 2020.

Toyota demonstrated on a Tokyo motorway what it called the ‘mobility team-mate concept’, meaning the driver and the artificial intelligence in a sensor-packed car work together as a team.

In the demonstration, a Lexus drove itself at 37mph (within the within the 60kph speed limit) for around 10 minutes, all whilst changing lanes, braking and steering by itself. The person at the wheel did nothing except turn on a button to engage the technology.

Toyota’s plans are part of a larger Japanese government initiative to pioneer automated driving in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Toyota’s chief safety technology officer, Moritaka Yoshida said, ‘Our goal is to offer the freedom of movement to everyone, including the elderly and the disabled,’ .

Although he did acknowledge that the technology was not yet ready to be used on roads with pedestrians and cyclists.

Along with curbing emissions with plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles, self-driving technology is a focus of research for the car industry. Both will be highlighted in the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, which opens to the public later this month.

Toyota demonstrated another futuristic automated technology called the Intelligent Transportation System, which it has been testing on roads in the Toyota city area and Tokyo.

The system will be offered as an option in three models going on sale in Japan later this year, including the Crown luxury model.

Tests are starting in the US, but sales plans are not yet decided.

A vehicle equipped with that technology communicates with sensory-transmission equipment at street corners that detects oncoming cars, as well as pedestrians, and warns the vehicle through data transmission. The warning appears as an image on the dashboard, and the car beeps. It is useful in alerting drivers to cars and pedestrians popping out from blind spots.

The technology can also be used for cars to communicate with each other, and fine-tune cruise control, so that the car in the back responds more quickly if two cars driving on the same street are equipped with this technology.

Toyota officials said the technology has tremendous potential to reduce accidents, although it is unlikely to have much of an effect in the beginning because the transmission sensors are installed in only 20 places, including 15 in Toyota’s headquarters area.

The plan is to expand that to 50 places in Japan by spring 2016, according to Toyota.