Toyota released the latest update to their autonomous vehicle (AV), which is their bid to meet the driverless car challenge with or before their competitors. The Toyota research institute, based in California, presented the Lexus LS 600hl, their AV test car that comes with an array of upgrades including the latest LIDAR, camera array and radar technology that provides an impressive 200 meters and 360-degree range. This new technology is being called Platform 3.0 by the institute.
This improvement in range performance is Toyota’s bid to outreach their competitors and provide a system that is both perceptive and quick to decide, which they hope will lead to a more secure and safe system for car owners.
When we compare Platform 3.0 to other tech models, such as HDL-64E, Velodyne’s LIDAR. This tech only reaches 120 meters, while their LIDAR VLP-16 Puck has only 100 meters. Velodyne slashed the VLP-16 Puck price by 50%, making a bid for a larger audience and increasing their sales. Currently, there is no “brand” that has hit the market, and as such, Velodyne hopes to create the worlds first LIDAR brand, which will make it a natural first choice for all AV car buyers. While another California based LIDAR company Luminar presents their 200-meter range model with the hope, it can impress buyers.
Toyota intends to start production of the Platform 3.0 during the first half of 2018 and intends to test the new system on double steering cars so that they can seat a “driver” in the passenger seat for the initial test phases. This dual steering option will allow a safety driver to take over when the AI request a shutdown or when the software does not respond safely to the environment. They also created a more advanced design of their LIDAR, placing all their tech in the roof space of the car, by spreading it over the roof, Platform 3.0 becomes the lowest LIDAR and most space saving tech on the market.
Toyota is not as active in marketing their AV tech as competitors GM, Volvo, BMW, and Ford. As such, it is hard to place them in the expected public and commercial market release watch list. AV research is a multi-billion-dollar industry, where many sectors are involved in the race for the first fully driverless car and include gig economies such as Uber, venture capital companies such as SoftBank, tech giants such as Waymo, owned by Alphabet, car industries including Toyota, and many smaller tech companies.
Toyota’s bid comes in the midst of a global AV war where billions are being spent on this emerging technology. Uber and Volvo have a pact where Volvo will provide Uber with 24,000 SUV’s for their AV bid, Waymo is suing Uber for technology theft, GM left gig economy Lyft and is trying to hit the market with their AV and Japan’s SoftBank is investing in every AV tech company it can find, in order to corner their hold on the market, securing them a high percentage of the global AV market when it becomes fully operational.