Toyota unveiled its third-generation self-driving concept vehicle at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January. The Toyota Research Institute showed off its Platform 3.0 on a Lexus LS 600hL full-size sedan. The vehicle combines short-range and long-range sensors to achieve greater accuracy and sensor readouts from previous models.
Perhaps the most important feature is the roof-based lidar system from Luminar. It is smaller and more compact than the lidar on previous Toyota self-driving prototypes, but it sees up to 650 feet (200 meters) away from the car in all directions. At 70 mph during highway driving, that gives the car more than six seconds to react to road conditions at that distance. Sensors embedded in the fenders and bumpers integrate seamlessly into the vehicle as small round areas. The self-driving car looks almost like a normal vehicle because the roof-based sensors and lidar are smaller and less clunky.
In terms of upgrades, the system does better than some competitors. Velodyne, another lidar company, has a system that sees only 394 feet (120 meters) surrounding the vehicle. Toyota’s system has nearly twice the range. Four high-resolution sensor heads allow the self-driving car to make up for any difficult-to-see objects that the lidar might have trouble with, including smaller objects on the road, children and weather. Everything looks aerodynamic. Toyota simply has to start testing its systems to see how this high-tech car performs.
Toyota even plans to go into production of these models sometime later in 2018, but the volume should remain low because demand is not yet there for an untested vehicle and the production costs are still high. Luminar, Calty Design Research and the North American arm of Toyota’s research and development center contributed to the overall design of the vehicle. The self-driving car is the result of one of Toyota’s biggest collaborations to date.