When Toyota unveiled its new-generation 2018 Lexus LS at the Tokyo Motor Show this past June, the auto manufacturer seemed determined to downplay the new vehicle’s autonomous and semi-autonomous features. In the wake of mishaps regarding test models of other self-driving cars, the company understandably wants to focus on safety first.
While the latest version of the carmaker’s flagship four-door luxury sedan is loaded with some truly impressive Level 2 autonomous driving features, it’s also equipped with an array of automated safety technology. Toyota hopes that the features will keep drivers safe while easing them into this exciting new era of autonomous cars. The manufacturer’s ultimate goal — no fatalities — is lofty but necessary.
Bringing Modern Technology Overseas
Some of the most exciting autonomous driving technologies that will be included in the new model have already been available in Japan for some time. That’s because much of the technology relies on highly detailed GPS mapping, which is more widely available in the small island nation. The manufacturer has stated that the vehicle’s safety features are designed to address two particularly prevalent issues: driver health, especially among elderly drivers, and inattentive or complacent drivers behind the wheel.
The new Lexus LS semi-autonomous car is equipped with the CoDrive system; an all-speed radar cruise control that drivers can initiate when desired. This system uses various technologies to keep the LS safely on the road. The first, Lane Trace Assist, uses cameras to recognize lines on the road. When lines are missing or too blurry, it can also trace the path of the vehicle ahead of it. The second technology, Lane Change Assist, is initiated with the flip of a turn signal. Using cameras and sensors, it can automatically control acceleration, braking and steering to safely direct the vehicle to the desired lane.
Driver Emergency Stop Assist
The LS comes standard with the Driver Emergency Stop Assist system. Automatically engaged when CoDrive is active, this technology alerts drivers when they appear to have become either incapacitated or overly complacent.
First, it issues a warning to the driver via visual and audio alerts. If the driver fails to respond, the system then activates the vehicle’s hazards and horn to alert nearby drivers of potential danger. From there, it slowly and safely rolls to a stop in its lane before automatically unlocking the doors and connecting to the manufacturer’s emergency help system.
Ability to “See” Farther
Arguably one of the most exciting improvements that’s included on the latest Lexus LS is its improved ability to “see” surroundings. Most vehicles that are equipped with autonomous and semi-autonomous features can see roughly 120 meters or so; typically, their sensors are unable to scan around at a full 360 degrees.
The new Lexus model, however, boasts long-range LiDAR sensors on its roof that allow the vehicle to see up to a range of 200 meters. Better still, the technology can scan a full 360 degrees, ensuring complete coverage of the surrounding area. This allows the self-driving technologies to function more effectively while dramatically enhancing overall safety.
Lexus Safety System Plus with Advanced Safety Package
Further enhancing this self-driving car’s overall safety is the Lexus Safety System + A, which provides safeguards that allow drivers and vehicles to see and respond more effectively to pedestrians and other obstacles. If the system detects a pedestrian or other obstacle in the vehicle’s path while CoDrive is engaged, it automatically brakes and steers around it while remaining in its own lane.
Front Cross Traffic Alert
The LS’s FCTA technology enhances overall safety — particularly at intersections, which is where the vast majority of collisions occur. A forward-directing radar scans ahead to detect traffic that may be crossing the vehicle’s path. It then alerts the driver on the front display to give a head’s up that may help to prevent an accident.
Road Sign Assist
Also known as RSA, this technology improves the new Lexus LS’s ability to navigate effectively. Through the use of high-tech cameras and detailed onboard navigational maps, the system acquires road sign information and prominently displays it on the front display. Drivers are therefore less likely to make wrong turns and can more easily confirm that the vehicle is going the correct way.
Digital Rear-View Mirror
Finally, the new Lexus LS autonomous car includes a snazzy digital rear-view mirror. While it can also be switched back to standard, or optical, mode, it captures images behind the vehicle with a rear-facing camera. Those images are then shown on a built-in display on the rear-view mirror. This technology provides more clarity in general and really improves safety in situations involving limited visibility, such as dark roads or stormy weather.
The 2018 Lexus LS with Level 2 autonomous driving technologies hits the U.S. market in spring 2018, and it is expected to have an MSRP of around $75,000. While it may not be a fully self-driving car, it’s certainly a step in that direction.