Toyota Research Institute tests two different uses for autonomy

One focuses on total autonomy, while the other is more of an overseer.

Toyota built itself an all-new autonomous test vehicle, and it'll be used to chart two different paths to our inevitable autonomous future.

The Toyota Research Institute developed this test car entirely in house. It's built on top of a current-generation Lexus LS 600hL hybrid luxury sedan. It packs Lidar, radar and camera sensors for monitoring the road, and it uses machine learning to improve as it racks up the miles.

Right now, the technology on this LS 600hL will be used for two different "paths" that Toyota Research Institute is developing -- Chauffeur and Guardian.

One look and it's fairly obvious that this Lexus LS isn't destined for a golf course parking lot.

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Chauffeur is a more traditional autonomous system. It's always on, and it's capable of completely unrestricted SAE Level 5 autonomy, meaning no human intervention is required. It also functions in a geo-fenced, SAE Level 4 manner, with autonomous driving available in most, but not all modes of operation.

Guardian, on the other hand, exists with the idea of leaving ultimate control to the driver. It will constantly scan the environment as a human drives. Guardian is capable of alerting the driver to any oncoming dangers, and if the human does not step in to avoid a collision, the system will do so.

Toyota believes Guardian is more likely to hit the market first, which makes sense, since it still relies on driver control. Both systems, though, will be capable of learning from driver habits and sharing data with other, similar vehicles on the road, in an effort to improve the experience as quickly as possible. I wouldn't expect this sort of tech to be on the road for years to come, though.

On a shorter timeline, Toyota is determined to beef up its driver-assistance offerings. The automaker claims autonomous emergency braking will be standard equipment on nearly every model and trim of both Toyota and Lexus vehicles by the end of this year.

"Sir, I believe you left your coffee on top of your car."

"No, that's just my Lidar."

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