Sonoma Raceway Prius Challenge Event Sees Toyota Test an Autonomous TRI Vehicle with Serious Smart Tech

And reporter Roberto Baldwin's experience makes the autonomous driving future look not only pretty smart, but like a lot of fun to boot.

Toyota’s autonomous driving story begins at its technical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2005. Its work there turned into its first patents in 2006, and now, as a 2016 report by Thomson Reuters's Intellectual Property and Science division attests, the automaker holds a litany of field patents. And at the March 3, 2017 Prius Challenge, Toyota showed us some of that work borne out, in the form of a new, advanced safety research vehicle, developed by Toyota Research Institute (TRI) on a new, second-generation Lexus LS 600Hl-based platform, designed to be both plug-and-play and flexible enough for frequent and continuous upgrade. The car's expanded sensor array is flanked by quite the fruit of Toyota's autonomous tech labor – systems called Chauffeur and Guardian designed to make the already intelligent vehicle even more so over time.

The idea here, Toyota claims, is to explore autonomous driving in its full implications, and the multilevel LIDAR, radar and camera trifecta in the car looks to get the metaphorical wheels spinning on improving machine vision and learning, all in order to reduce reliance on high-definition maps for traversing a wider range of areas. The Chauffeur system, always deployed and fully autonomous, looks designed for geo-fencing, while Guardian's a high-level driver assist system, monitoring, and alerting the driver regarding, the driving environment and activating in the event of needing assistance with crash avoidance.

Toyota looks to integrate these systems over time in Lexus and Toyota vehicles, and the automaker's Automatic Emergency Braking system will start to appear standard on most U.S. models and trims by the end of 2017, so keep an eye out for more from the exciting and emerging field of autonomous driving. In the meantime, you can experience some road smarts for yourself, in the form of a test drive in one of our eco-friendly 2016 and 2017 Toyota Prius, Prius c or Prius v models. Stop by our Temple showroom today!

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