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It’s been a busy week thanks the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, but we weren’t in Japan just for halls full of cars. We were also in the land of the rising sun for a Toyota media tour where we got to try out some interesting cars and technologies. Here’s one of them – Toyota Highway Teammate, which is the self-driving technology that the company is currently developing.

Toyota’s approach to self-driving technology is called the Mobility Teammate Concept. In a nutshell, they believe 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 Highway Teammate system is the first system developed as part of this concept. It’s still under development of course – Toyota has been testing it on a modified Lexus GS designed to drive itself along Tokyo’s Shuto Expressway.

You can see that the Lexus GS used has been fitted with various sensory equipment such as a “millimetre wave radar,” a light detection and ranging sensor (LIDAR) and a camera placed atop the front mid section of the roof. This helps give the car a 360 degree “view” of its surroundings.

All of this helps the self-driving GS to brake, accelerate, intersect traffic as well as plan forward before it passes slower traffic. Perhaps in the interest of “transparency” to the driver so that we know what the system is thinking, the 12.3-inch screen in the middle of the GS dashboard displays the exact pattern of the road ahead and the direction the vehicle is going to cut into.

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Highway Teammate is basically designed to take over the driving from the driver upon entering a highway from the on-ramp all the way through to the off-ramp. In our demo, the automated driving kicked in after we passed the ETC toll booth to enter the highway. A special button on the steering wheel of the GS activates the system. The system operates the steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes to achieve the appropriate speed and driving lines in much the same way as a person would drive.

We recorded our experience in the Highway Teammate Lexus GS so you’d have an idea how the system works. Watch the video below which we recorded during our test ride in the car. If you listen to the audio you can hear an explanation of what the system was doing during the drive.

Overall, the car drives itself extremely smoothly and never once was there a hairy moment where we felt like we were going to hit something. It all felt very natural, and if I didn’t occasionally look to my right to see that the person in the driver’s seat wasn’t actually driving, I wouldn’t even know I was in an autonomous car.

As you would have learned if you watched the video, there was once instance where the driver took over because he felt the lane that the car was supposed to switch into had too heavy traffic for the system to handle. So you can basically override the system anytime just like cruise control. After that he simply resumed the Highway Teammate feature and the car took over again.

It’s basically one up on the semi-autonomous driving system available in the W222 S-Class which is called Distronic Plus with Steering Assist. The S-Class system works well on highways as well and can steer itself according to the curvature of the lane but based on trying out both systems, Highway Teammate can tackle sharper bends. Highway Teammate can also switch lanes and ease itself into moving traffic.

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Another difference is that the S-Class system still requires you to keep your hand on the steering wheel although it will perform the steering effort on its own, while Highway Teammate doesn’t require you to. So while Distronic Plus with Steering Assist will ‘assist’ you, Highway Teammate is designed to completely take the chore off you.

But of course, the biggest difference of all is that the S-Class system, while relatively more basic, is already in production and available in Malaysia. How soon will Highway Teammate come to a production car? Toyota plans to launch a production version of the Highway Teammate feature by around 2020.