Lexus President Koji Sato has revealed that the automaker will offer its first self-driving system in 2020.
Speaking with Automotive News (subscription required) in an interview published last week, Sato said the system will offer hands-off capability but drivers will still need to monitor the road and take over in case of an emergency.
This means the system will rank at Level 2 on the SAE scale for self-driving capability. The end goal is a Level 5 car, i.e. one that can handle all situations on its own and thus doesn't require a driver behind the wheel.
Lexus will offer more advanced self-driving systems via over-the-air updates as they become available, and as the regulations and societal acceptance surrounding the technology matures, Sato said. He also said Lexus will eventually offer the technology across its full range.
Lexus is expected to introduce its first self-driving system in the LS flagship sedan. The automaker may have even previewed it with the LS+ concept car unveiled in 2017. The concept featured a self-driving system for highways, aptly named the Highway Teammate.
Lexus said at the time that Highway Teammate could handle almost all aspects of highway driving from the on-ramp to the exit, such as merging into highway traffic, lane keeping, speed adjustments, lane changes, overtaking and maintaining vehicle-to-vehicle distance.
Other automakers offer similar systems, with Cadillac's Super Cruise the most advanced so far. However, Cadillac's system only works on highways where there is sufficient map data available.
Lexus' parent company, Toyota, is working on its own self-driving system. It will demonstrate some of the technology this summer during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and in 2021 it will add some self-driving Sienna minivans to Uber's own fleet of self-driving cars.