Lexus not ready to commit to driverless cars, thinks assisted automation is the future

Lexus used its CES press conference to warn customers that autonomous cars won’t be appearing in the foreseeable future, and driverless cars are unlikely to appear at all

8 Jan 2013

Lexus has revealed a prototype Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle at its CES press conference today, but a company spokesman said it was unlikely driverless cars would be released under the Lexus brand name in the near future.

With a roof-mounted 360 degree Light Detection and Ranging (LADAR) system, high definition cameras capable of detecting traffic from up to 160 feet away, front and side-mounted radar and a multitude of orientation sensors, the prototype is designed to assist the driver rather than take away control completely. Based on an LS saloon car, the protruding technology is a far cry from the sleek lines of the production model.

Lexus automation research vehicle

Lexus is no stranger to safety – its Japanese research facility has an entirely networked transport system which communicates with every car, junction, traffic signal and pedestrian in the quest for better car safety. The 2013 Lexus LS, which launched in October last year, has one of the world’s most advanced pre-collision systems available on a road car, with infra-red projectors a millimetre wave radios to detect oncoming obstacles and pre-charge the brakes.

However, these new and existing technologies are unlikely to replace the driver’s job any time soon. Lexus believes driver assists are far more likely to be accepted by the general public, as well as world governments, when compared to completely autonomous vehicles in which the passengers have almost no control over the drive.

Lexus automation research vehicle

It’s an approach that Google is testing right now, having just been granted free run on Nevada’s roads with its fleet of driverless cars for small scale testing. There are far more hoops to jump through compared to traditional road testing, so perhaps Lexus is being realistic with its expectations, but we would be far more excited to see a driverless car than one that simply gives you a helping hand.

For all the latest news from the CES show, read CES 2013: In-depth, hands-on coverage from our team in Las Vegas

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