Toyota has offered a glimpse of an automated driving test vehicle it plans to show off next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Toyota Research Institute plans to reveal the TRI-P4, which is based on the fifth-generation Lexus LS flagship sedan and which Toyota plans to use TRI’s development of the two-track Guardian and Chauffeur automated driving system.
“Our Chauffeur development is focused on full autonomy, where the human is essentially removed from the driving equation, either completely in all environments, or within a restricted driving domain,” said Ryan Eustice, senior vice president of automated driving at TRI.
“Guardian, on the other hand, is being designed to amplify human performance behind the wheel, not replace it. The introduction of the new P4 platform will help us accelerate the development of both tracks when it joins our fleet this spring,” Eustice said.
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Eustice said the P4 test vehicle benefits from Lexus’ new generation of chassis and steering control technology, which provides greater agility and allows for more responsive and smoother maneuvers during automated driving.
The P4 is a much smarter research vehicle than its predecessor, he added. With added computing power, systems in the P4 can operate more machine-learning algorithms in parallel for faster learning. It can process sensor inputs faster and react more quickly to the surrounding environment.
The P4 is engineered so the power for the computing system is drawn from the vehicle’s hybrid battery. The vehicle’s 12-volt battery now serves only as a backup.
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The box carrying the computing system, which serves as the “brain” of the automated driving system, has been “re-imagined” by CALTY Design Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which managed the P4’s styling. It is now tucked vertically against the rear seat transom, folding down to access the circuitry and freeing up the entire floor of the trunk for hauling cargo.
“We took a holistic approach to integrating autonomous componentry into the design of the new LS,” said Scott Roller, senior lead designer at CALTY Design Research. “The result is a fluid surface embracing advanced technology loosely inspired by science fiction in the graphic separations between form and function.”
The P4 also carries two additional cameras to improve situational awareness on the sides and two new imaging sensors – one facing forward and one pointed to the rear – specifically designed for autonomous vehicles.
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The imaging sensors feature new chip technology with high dynamic range, according to Toyota. In addition, the radar system in the P4 has been “optimized” to improve the field of view, especially for close range detection around the vehicle perimeter. The separate LIDAR sensing system with eight scanning heads carries over from the previous test model, Platform 3.0, and morphs into the new vehicle design.