Toyota shows off autonomous car

Toyota's Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle monitors its surroundings to avoid accidents

Toyota demonstrated its latest active safety vehicle at the International CES Monday, bringing it a step closer to an autonomous car that could make roads safer.

The goal of Toyota's research, which is based on a Lexus LS, isn't to make a driverless car, but to use the autonomous technologies to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries. It calls its car the Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle.

"A driverless car is just part of the story," said Mark Templin Toyota group vice president and general manager of the Lexus Division in a statement. "Our vision is a car equipped with an intelligent, always-attentive co-pilot whose skills contribute to safer driving."

The car includes a variety of sensors to determine what is happening around it. It's capable of distinguishing a red light from a green one using its three high-definition color cameras. A 360-degree Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) laser tracking system is mounted on the roof and detects cars and objects up to 70 meters away. Radars on the front and sides of the car can measure the speed of objects around the car. And a variety of GPS antennas estimate the angle and orientation of the vehicle.

The LIDAR system on the roof of the car spins and a computer can map out an accurate image of the car's surroundings better than a conventional camera.

Toyota and other car makers have slowly been adding more autonomous technology to vehicles in recent years. Some technologies include adaptive cruise control, which monitors the car's distance from the car ahead and adjusts its speed; parking assist, which parallel park a car with little driver input; and blind-spot monitoring, which alerts drivers to hidden vehicles before changing lanes.

At last year's Ceatec technology show in Japan, Nissan displayed a prototype car that could park itself. Stanford University and Google have developed a prototype self-driving car based on an Audi TTS.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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