Self-driving cars aren't quite ready for showrooms, but the necessary technology is already available. The latest round of advanced safety features from Toyota could bring us closer to a future of autonomous vehicles. At the fourth-annual Toyota Advanced Safety Seminar in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Japanese carmaker demonstrated technology it hopes to put on production cars by mid-decade and further increase vehicle automation.
Among the technologies demonstrated was the latest version of Toyota's Automated Highway Driving Assist (ADHA), which was first unveiled in Japan last year. It combines dynamic radar-guided cruise control and a lane-following feature to allow cars to autonomously drive in traffic. This latest version was programmed based on actual U.S. traffic conditions, and can operate at speeds up to 70 mph.
Toyota also demonstrated its new SPAD (Single Photon Avalanche Diode) lidar system. Lidar—a radar-like system that uses light instead of radio waves—is used in several prototype self-driving cars, but this version is more compact. Toyota says it can be mounted inside a vehicle, negating the need for the spinning roof-mounted boxes used by Google and others.
To help the driver make sense of all of the information newly self-aware cars can provide, Toyota is also developing a 3D head-up display that will project things onto the windshield for an augmented-reality view.
While these features won't be available in the U.S. for a few years, Toyota is also planning to offer its existing active safety technology on more vehicles. According to The Car Connection, features that are currently exclusive to luxury Lexus models will begin to trickle down to Toyota-brand models.
This will include the Lexus Pre-Collision System, which warns the driver of an impending collision and prepares the car for impact. The new features are expected to roll out for the 2015 model year, and be available on all Toyota models by 2017.