Toyota Research Institute (TRI), Toyota’s artificial intelligence division, is returning to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year with a new autonomous driving prototype. The P4, based on the latest Lexus LS 500h, will again be used to develop the company’s Guardian and Chauffeur systems, which provide partial driving assistance and full autonomy respectively, when it joins the fleet in the spring.

“Our Chauffeur development is focused on full autonomy, where the human is essentially removed from the driving equation, either completely in all environments, or within a restricted driving domain,” said TRI senior vice president of automated driving Ryan Eustice. “Guardian, on the other hand, is being designed to amplify human performance behind the wheel, not replace it.”

The P4 utilises the Lexus’ latest chassis and steering control technology, which is claimed to offer greater agility and smoother, more responsive manoeuvres during autonomous driving. Compared to the previous Platform 3.0, the P4 gets two additional cameras along the side that improve its situational awareness, along with a new imaging sensor at the front and rear designed specifically for autonomous vehicles.

These sensors feature new chip technology to provide a high dynamic range, while the radar system has been optimised to improve the field of view, particularly for close-range detection around the vehicle perimeter. The eight scanning LIDAR heads, meanwhile, have been carried over from its predecessor.

Increased computing power on board the P4 allow it to operate a greater number of machine learning algorithms in parallel for faster learning, and it can also process sensor inputs faster and react more quickly to the surrounding environment. The whole computing system now draws all of its power from the LS’s hybrid battery instead of the 12-volt battery, which now serves only as a backup.

In the boot of the car sits the brains of the autonomous driving system, the compute box, which has been redesigned for the P4. It is now placed vertically behind the rear seats to free up the entire boot floor to carry items, and the system can be folded down to access the circuitry.

The housings of the various componentry was once again handled by Toyota’s American design studio, Calty Design Research. “We took a holistic approach to integrating autonomous componentry into the design of the new LS,” said Calty senior lead designer Scott Roller. “The result is a fluid surface embracing advanced technology loosely inspired by science fiction in the graphic separations between form and function.”

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