Speaking to journalists this week at a Lexus Milestone event, celebrating 30 years of the Lexus Brand, Executive Vice President of Lexus International, Koji Sato, shared that "in 2020, Lexus will introduce the Automated Highway Teammate."
This isn't exactly news -- we've known that Highway Teammate was coming since it was announced at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. However, Sato did share more information about the specifics of what we can expect when this system hits the road next year.
When asked about the SAE level of autonomy for the system, Sato responded: "Officially, Level 2 is the reality... starting out, the project will release at level 2 in 2020."
That means hands-off highway cruise control under certain conditions, but also the requirement for the driver to remain at attention with their eyes on the road while the system is active with some sort of driver attention monitoring in place. Similar to, Highway Teammate will steer itself to stay between the lane markers and adjust its throttle and braking to follow a leading car.
Autonomous Highway Teammate should go a step beyond with the ability to handle highway lane changes, merging and diverging. Sato tells us that, "Our plans for the future include updating the functions for the conditions," meaning that the system will also learn and receive updates over time, gaining new functionalities as the automaker sees fit.
Sato went on to explain that Lexus sees autonomy as only part of the experience that it will offer to future drivers and that engaging, human-piloted driving will continue to be a large part of the Lexus experience.
"The technology in a future Lexus will be 'my co-pilot that helps me live my most amazing life,'" Sato continues. "We will continue to offer a human-focused Lexus driving experience. We will never forget the value of driving for luxury customers."