Toyota testing self-driving cars ‘since the 1990s’ – USA TODAY
As California tech companies Google, Apple and Tesla absorb most of the attention for their self-driving car ambitions, auto giant Toyota confirmed Tuesday that it is quietly plotting its own strategy for autonomous vehicles.
Toyota said it has been testing a new automated system for highway driving and expects to launch products with the technology “around 2020.”
The revelation comes five days after General Motors said it is offering rides in driverless Chevrolet Volts to the 19,000 workers of its sprawling Technical Center campus in Warren, Mich.
Taken together, the announcements reflect a subtle acknowledgment by the world’s No. 2 and No. 3 biggest automakers that they are making serious advancements on self-driving vehicles. In doing so, they join the leaders of Silicon Valley in going after the technology. Among them:
•Google. The company, now known as Alphabet, generated a new round of attention for its self-driving car when it appointed former Hyundai U.S. chief John Krafcik as CEO of the project.
•Apple. The tech giant continues to make headlines for its secretive blitz to develop a self-driving car, which reportedly may be ready to hit the market by the end of the decade.
•Tesla. The California-based maker of electric cars has said it will introduce a system in its Model S sedan that will steer the vehicle on the highway. GM has said it will have a similar system on its 2017 Cadillac CT6.
On Tuesday, Toyota, bidding to re-establish its credentials, noted that it’s been researching and developing autonomous driving technology “since the 1990s.”
It revealed several key details about the current status of its technology. The company said in a statement it “believes that interactions between drivers and cars should mirror those between close friends who share a common purpose, sometimes watching over each other and sometimes helping each other out.”
The company said it has tested its automated highway driving system on Tokyo’s Shuto Expressway. The modified Lexus GS merged and exited the highway, accelerated and braked and maintained and changed lanes on its own.
The system “uses on-board technology to evaluate traffic conditions, make decisions and take action during highway driving,” Toyota said.
Drivers must turn on the automated driving feature after passing a toll gate and entering the highway.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.