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Toyota Mirai, Lexus LS debut Advanced Drive highway assist technology

The Level 2 driver-assist technology will help drivers operate on highways, execute lane changes and more.

Toyota Mirai, Lexus LS Advanced Drive reveal
The first two of many more, surely.

Toyota has something to rival Tesla's Autopilot. On Thursday, the automaker debuted the latest Lexus LS and Toyota Mirai sedans in Japan, and they pack something special: Advanced Drive. The new technology bundles a host of sensors, cameras and integrated technology to create a Level 2-rated driver-assist technology.

Rated for use on highways, Toyota's new tech is meant to complement a driver's engagement, and to be clear, does not drive itself in any situation. No system on the market today is completely autonomous. However, with Advanced Drive engaged, the LS or Mirai can keep itself in its lane, hold a safe following distance to the car in front and execute lane changes. 

The automaker said it's particularly proud of the engineering behind the system that's meant to evoke a human-like approach. For example, if the driver flicks on Advanced Drive and they begin to drive next to a semi truck in the other lane, the car detects this and automatically moves slightly over in its lane. Toyota found it's a natural movement for human drivers to keep just a little extra distance from large vehicles, so it told the computers to do it, too. It even takes merging vehicles into account to give the car space.

Toyota Advanced Drive

On paper, this system sounds very smart.


In all, the system frees the driver from operating the accelerator, brakes and steering in the right conditions. It's not clear if this is a true hands-off system like General Motors' Super Cruise, however. Toyota did not immediately return a request for comment. While engaged, a driver monitor camera watches the person behind the wheel and can tell if they're starting to disconnect from the drive. The camera can tell if the driver has their eyes open or closed, or if they start to look away from the road in front of them. If they do, a buzzer chime sounds, the seatbelt vibrates and the head-up display flashes to tell them to knock it off. A voice assistant may also recommend improving their engagement.

If the situation doesn't improve, the car will begin an emergency stop. Advanced Driver turns on the hazard lights and begins a gradual deceleration before it pulls off into the shoulder. Then, it dials for emergency assistance and unlocks the doors if the driver is unresponsive. (Truly, we're living in the future.)

This is only the beginning for Advanced Drive. The LS and Mirai are the first cars from the automaker to include over-the-air updates, so owners can expect updates long after purchasing to help the system grow smarter. Toyota also plans to collect data from the system while in use anonymously, and only from the outside of the car. It seems like a fair bet we'll eventually see this suite of tech land in the US, but Toyota didn't say for sure yet. If and when it does, the connected-car race will heat up further.