A self-driving Lexus has been seen driving in Tokyo

Toyota to develop self-driving cars by 2020

Toyota has demonstrated its self-driving car concept saying it would like to start selling autonomous vehicles by 2020.

Toyota’s ‘mobility team-mate concept’ expects the car and the driver to work as a team.

Toyota has been experimenting with driverless cars since the 1990s but only the latest advancement in sensor and connectivity technology has allowed the company to move closer to reality.

In a demonstration on a highway in Tokyo, a Lexus drove itself at 60km/h for about 10 minutes, changing lanes, braking and steering, with the human behind the wheel only pressing a button to turn the systems on.

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

However, he acknowledged that integrating the technology into the regular traffic with pedestrians and cyclists might be challenging.

Toyota would like to see its autonomous cars deployed in Japan by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The car maker has also unveiled its Intelligent Transportation System, which it has been testing on roads in the Toyota city area and Tokyo.

The system, designed to detect oncoming cars and pedestrians cooperates with sensors and transmitters at street corners. It provides warning to the driver in the form of an image on the dashboard and a beeping sound.

Design to eliminate blind spots, the technology could help reduce the amount of accidents on complicated junctions. It could also enable two cars to respond faster to each other’s actions.

The system will be offered as an option in three models going on sale in Japan later this year, including the Crown luxury model. However, Toyota admitted it will, at least at the beginning, be of limited use as the sensors are currently only installed in 20 places including 15 near Toyota’s headquarters.

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

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

Nissan has also demonstrated car-detection technology on Yokohama roads, but using a different beaming technology. Toyota's new transmission system uses a different standard that will be open for use by all car-makers in Japan. In Japan, accidents at intersections account for about 40 per cent of all traffic accidents.


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