January 7, 2013
CES 2013: Lexus Paving The Way For Future Of Driving
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
The dream of setting your car on cruise control and having it drive itself has always been one shared by anyone who has engaged in a road trip before. That fantasy is slowly becoming a reality and Lexus is already entertaining technologies to get us there.
Lexus showed off its new driverless technologies during its press conferences at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show. Everything is about to change in the automotive industry, and this year's conference is evidence that we are heading towards a destination we have always dreamed of.
Lexus said that they aren't exactly pushing for a vehicle that is able to drive itself quite yet, but they are finding ways to make it easier, and safer, to drive a car. Car-related accidents are the number one cause of fatalities among teens in the U.S., and in 2011, there were 32,000 highway fatalities on American roads.
"Instead, we believe that in our pursuit of developing more advanced automated technologies. The driver must be fully engaged in the operation of the vehicle at all times," Mark Templin, Group Vice President and General Manager, said in the press conference. "
With this new technology coming out in the Lexus LS, it will ensure that some of those visions of the future of driverless cars can be implemented into our existing society, without the need for a massive overhaul of roads and highways for communication infrastructure just yet.
Instead of outright releasing a vehicle that drives itself, Lexus said it is more focused on an intelligent "co-pilot" capable of helping drivers if they make mistakes and making the burden of those long road trips a little easier to bear.
"Our vision is not necessarily a car that drives itself; but rather, a car equipped with an intelligent, always-attentive co-pilot whose skills contribute to safer driving," Temple said during the conference.
Toyota, who owns Lexus, has created the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). This system utilizes state-of-the-art electronic and telecommunications technologies to link people, vehicles, traffic environments and infrastructure to help the driver.
Lexus unleashed a prototype vehicle at the press conference as well that is helping the research into this technology. Lexus' showed off its Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle (AASRV), which is essentially an LS loaded down with plenty of hardware.
The AASRV features a forward facing HD color camera, advanced GPS antenna, forward facing radar, LIDAR, Inertial Measurement Unit, side facing radars, side facing HD color cameras and a rotary encoder. With these instruments, Lexus is able to help turn those visions of driving automations into realities.
The cameras contain image sensors for detecting and tracking objects, whether it is traffic lights, or approaching vehicles and intersections. These cameras can also measure relative location and the velocity of objects.
Two forward facing radars are able to help the researchers test different radar data configurations, while six side facing radars can each cover 10 degrees at intersections for more detection capabilities.
The LIDAR, or Light Detection And Ranging, helps to detect objects that are around the vehicle, such as a person crossing the road. LIDAR is a high-density laser beam scanner with 64 LEDs to cover 360 degrees horizontal and 25.6 degrees vertical field of view.
Lexus' Intertial Measurement Unit (IMU) senses the vehicle's movement and maneuvering. It contains high accuracy 3-axis accelerometers and angle rate sensors to help measure roll, pitch, and yaw and angle rates.
The IMU works with the GPS to provide high-accuracy position and orientation data. This interaction is important for understanding the exact positioning of the vehicle.
While ultimately, Lexus could be utilizing this technology to get us to the point where we can kickback and sleep in the driver seat without repercussions, that vision is "not in the immediate future," according to Templin.