Toyota’s self-driving car has two steering wheels to stop robot joyriding 0

Toyota

Toyota has released images of its new self-driving car. The first thing that strikes you from the pictures is that it has two steering wheels. The reason for this apparently is to better transfer control from human to robot.  

The vehicle being used for the tests is a Lexus LS 600hL and is equipped with LIDAR, radar, and camera arrays. Toyota is testing several of the cars on both public and private roads in Silicon Valley Ann Arbor, Michigan and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Japanese company is primarily using the tests as a base for a couple of its new driving research systems: Chauffeur and Guardian. Chauffeur is development into Level 4 self-driving (autonomous driving in certain geological areas such as a city or suburbs) and Level 5 autonomy which would work anywhere. Guardian meanwhile, is a driver-assist system that functions in much the same way as Tesla’s Autopilot system. It monitors the environment surrounding the car and brings to the driver’s attention any potential hazards. Guardian can also override the driver if it believes the car is in danger of crashing and can monitor the driver’s behaviour inside the vehicle, using an infrared sensor to detect drowsiness or distractions.

“The usability and safety are really important to us, and Toyota in general,” said James Kuffner, chief technology officer at TRI. “We think that driver monitoring technology to basically confirm that a driver is engaged is an important part of deploying this technology safely.” He added, “Our research vehicle prototype we think is the most perceptive car in the world.”

Toyota – along with other companies – are concentrating on the enhanced perception aspect of self-driving as they realise potential buyers will need to be convinced that the vehicle they are entrusting their life to has better response and adaptability to conditions than a human driver.

Kuffner insisted that Toyota had “over-engineered” its research vehicle to ensure it was as safe as possible. “Our software system fuses information from all our sensors to try to come up with a very reliable model for what is happening around the car, and cross-validate the measurements between each of those sensing modalities,” he said.

The second steering wheel, technically called a “unique dual cockpit configuration” was simply added as a safety precaution, for a human driver to takeover in the event of an emergency.

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