- toyota research institute's modified lexus ls will give rides to those who register along a preset route during the 2020 olympic games in tokyo.
- tri has been testing the autonomous car in michigan, california, and japan.
- toyota says the car is capable of level 4 autonomy.
when tourists arrive in tokyo for the 2020 olympic games next summer, they'll potentially have another exciting experience beyond watching gold-medal athletics. that's because toyota will be giving visitors free rides in self-driving cars on public roads in the odaiba district of tokyo.
odaiba is a shopping and entertainment district on a man-made island in tokyo bay that will become even busier than usual during the olympics. events scheduled to take place there include marathon swimming and triathlon in odaiba marine park, beach volleyball in shiokaze park, and basketball in aomi urban sports park. the toyota research institute (tri), which is leading the self-driving-vehicle project, isn't saying you'll be able to flag down one of the self-driving cars to go to any of these events, just that the car will be on the island at the same time.
the cars will be platform 4 (p4) automated driving test vehicles that are modified versions of the fifth-generation lexus ls sedan. however, toyota isn't announcing all that many details about the program just yet—details such as exactly how many cars will be used, how long each ride will be, or how people can register to get selected to take a trip. tri has said that the program will run from july to september 2020 and that it will operate in a "mobility as a service" driving environment. more details will come out as the event gets closer, tri communication manager rick bourgoise told car and driver.
the vehicles used in odaiba will be operating at level 4 autonomous driving under the sae's definition. that means humans won't ever need to take control of tri's lexus under most conditions. a human safety driver will be in the car at all times, as required by japanese law, tri says.
we asked whether drivers will be able to treat the special lexus ls vehicles as shuttles taking them where they want to go. the answer, it turns out, is no. john hanson of tri told c/d that there will be "predetermined routes showcasing the vehicle's capabilities in a broad range of driving environments, challenges, and conditions." he also points out that a level 4 autonomous vehicle—one that can operate without human input—is required to stay within a set area approved for its use, also known as an operational design domain (odd), which toyota is creating specifically for use during the olympic games.
even without the complete details, tri engineers are confident that the self-driving cars will be able to navigate the odaiba streets, bourgoise said. "our team is capable of accomplishing it, which serves as our next major development milestone," he said.
with nine months to go before the public demonstration starts, tri will keep working on the ai technology in the u.s. and in toyota's home country. tri works with the advanced r&d division of toyota motor corporation and toyota research institute-advanced development (tri-ad), which is based in tokyo and will continue to test "on our closed course in michigan, public roads in michigan and california, and on public roads in japan," bourgoise said. that includes replicating some of the challenges the cars will find in the "challenging infrastructure" of odaiba, both on location and on michigan and california roads.