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Toyota's New Autonomous Research Vehicle Actually Looks Just Fine

Photo: Toyota
Photo: Toyota

The Toyota Research Institute unveiled its first research platform for self-driving cars last week, and it has a full slate of autonomous capabilities. While it’s only the initial offering from TRI, one thing stands out: It doesn’t look too bad!


Toyota said that the research vehicle’s rig has a robust system of LiDAR, radar and camera sensors, which the automaker explains will “reduce the need to depend too heavily on high-definition maps.” The small alien horns on the hood aside, the car looks a lot like “a car” as opposed to a weird koala bear theme park ride. That’s good!

According to a news release from Toyota, the vehicle’s equipped to handle two self-driving platforms called “Chauffeur” and “Guardian.”


The Chauffeur option is equipped for what’s considered Level 4 autonomy, where a self-driving car can be used in defined geographical areas, as well as Level 5 full autonomy, allowing it to be used anywhere. Guardian, meanwhile, is a driver-assist system that alerts a driver if there’s a potential hazard within its path.

“Basically, it is a smart vehicle designed to get smarter over time,” said TRI CEO Gill Pratt, in a statement. “It will learn individual driver habits and abilities and will benefit from shared intelligence from other cars as data gathering, sharing and connectivity technologies advance.”

Pratt said TRI believes Guardian will be deployed sooner than Chauffeur to provide driver-assist features. It all comes as part of a $1 billion investment from Toyota for self-driving cars.

At the very least, it seems like Toyota has it in mind to develop an AV that looks like a marketable car, and less like a robot futuristic toy.


Update: This post has been updated to reflect that Toyota debuted a research vehicle platform for autonomous driving.

Senior Reporter, Jalopnik/Special Projects Desk

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i don’t understand this infatuation with developers trying to keep these car systems as helpers to the driver. it’s only going to breed complacency.

they need to focus their efforts on level 5-only systems.

i enjoy driving, but i really wouldn’t mind a level 5 system to handle the boring commuting stuff while i take a nap or something. but if i want to take the wheel, then i’m enjoying the road enough that i don’t want any vehicle system to get in the way of that. not even ABS.