At the Prius Challenge event in Sonoma California today, Toyota unveiled today its second generation autonomous vehicles platform developed by the Toyota Research Institute (TRI).

While Toyota demoed an interesting system, it certainly has to be one of the most ridiculous-looking self-driving platforms we have seen so far. If you look closely, you can actually see the Lexus LS 600hL underneath all those lidar sensors.

It has been a challenge for automakers developing self-driving technology to integrate the sensor into its vehicles. Tesla managed to do it flawlessly, but that’s because the company is betting that it can deliver a self-driving system with only cameras and radar antennas, while most other automakers believe lidar sensors are critical to making the technology safe.

Those sensors are continuously shooting multiple laser beams all around that need a clear field of view and they are therefore more difficult to integrate.

We have seen it before on other dev platforms, like Waymo or Uber’s, but Toyota is pushing it with over a dozen sensors sticking out of the car:

Toyota is using the platform to develop two suites of features, a driver assist suite and a level 4 and 5 autonomous system:

  • Chauffeur refers to the always deployed, fully autonomous system classified by SAE as unrestricted Level 5 autonomy and Level 4 restricted and geo-fenced operation.
  • Guardian is a high-level driver assist system, constantly monitoring the driving environment inside and outside the vehicle, ready to alert the driver of potential dangers and stepping in when needed to assist in crash avoidance.

The Japanese automaker hasn’t released a clear timeline for when it plans on bringing full autonomy to market, but most companies are aiming for 2020-2021.

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