Both Audi and Toyota are unveiling this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) test vehicles designed to explore the possibilities of autonomous driving.
Autonomous driving as in the vehicle performing important driving tasks instead of the driver.
The State of Nevada issued to Audi last December the second license allowing the testing of autonomous vehicles on the state’s public roads. Audi’s vehicle will sport the license plate number 007.
Nevada’s special license plates for autonomous vehicles are red license plate featuring an infinity sign to represent the car of the future.
Google was the first to obtain such a license and its vehicles had license plates 001 through 006.
Continental also obtained such a license in December.
Audi is not new to autonomous driving research. In 2010, the Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak research car completed successfully the legendary Pikes Peak Hill Climb course in Colorado.
That Audi research car, developed jointly by the Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Lab in Silicon Valley and Stanford University, autonomously completed the 156-turn, 12.42-mile Pikes Peak circuit in just 27 minutes.
Today, Audi says it envisions motorists enjoying the convenience of allowing the car to handle mundane stop-and-go driving conditions, for example, while still being able to take control of the car when needed. In this way, the technology is similar to auto-pilot systems found on jetliners.
Likewise, autonomous, or piloted parking, would let future Audi models park safely without a driver at the wheel in tight parking spaces.
Toyota is also, separately, active in autonomous driving research.
Toyota’s Lexus Division unveiled its advanced active safety research vehicle for the first time at the CES yesterday to demonstrate ongoing efforts around autonomous vehicle safety technologies.
The goal according to the company is also to explain Toyota’s approach to reducing global traffic fatalities and injuries.
The vehicle is based on a Lexus LS and Toyota states that it advances the industry toward a new era of integrated safety management technologies.
The Lexus LS test vehicle includes a number of features that have already been implemented in many vehicles across the Toyota and Lexus brands, including Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Traction Control and Smart Stop Technology.
More recently, technologies like advanced safety features such as Lane-Keep Assist system (LKA), Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) and the Pre-Collision System have taken active safety to a new level.
The company’s guiding strategy is called the Integrated Safety Management Concept.
While Audi and Continental research allows partial driving duties to be done by the vehicle, Toyota’s vision is not a car that drives itself. Instead, Toyota says it envision technologies that enhance the skills of the driver, believing a more skillful driver is a safer driver.
Toyota says the Lexus advanced active safety research vehicle is equipped with an array of sensors and automated control systems to observe, process and respond to the vehicle’s surroundings. These include GPS, stereo cameras, radar and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) laser tracking.
Toyota says it has committed to new research toward an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), integrating the car with the driving environment.
In order to accelerate development of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-roadside infrastructure communications, Toyota began full-scale operations in November at a new 8.6 acre ITS proving grounds, located within the Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in Toyota City, Japan.
Modeled after urban roads, the driving environment replicates roads and traffic signals and simulates real-life traffic situations using other vehicles, pedestrians and control devices.
ITS technology is being developed globally and cooperatively among most major automakers and regulators, and in cooperation with international ITS governing bodies.
The system is designed to help prevent accidents involving pedestrians and other vehicles using information continuously collected by the vehicle from other vehicles, infrastructure and pedestrians. Manufacturers involved believe connecting people, vehicles, traffic environments and infrastructure with state-of-the-art electronic and telecommunications technologies will help move toward safer and more efficient traffic environments.
This means most autonomous vehicles will be able to work and function on the road together following a common protocol.