The world is still figuring out how best to talk about the technology that will eventually bring us autonomous vehicles. The sensors and artificial intelligence forming the building blocks of tomorrow's AVs are already assisting drivers, but the names that automakers use for these systems don't always reflect the technology's role.
Tesla Autopilot is a perfect example. The name infers autonomous capability, but it's a Level 2 driving aid similar to what other automakers offer.
Toyota Motor Corporation seeks to provide clarity through its new Lexus Teammate advanced driving assistance system (ADAS), which is coming to the U.S. market in the 2022 Lexus LS 500h with all-wheel drive. This umbrella term for the collection of systems and how Toyota is talking about Teammate's features shows how automakers can – and should – clarify how their ADAS offerings work now.
When the automaker talks about an ADAS system as a teammate, it is instantly clear that the car and the human work together. Toyota says the concept is really a way to improve how the car and the driver communicate. The goal is to "enable them to reach out to each other for mutual assistance, and enable coordinated driving similar to that by close friends." The company also talks about the "partnership" between machines and humans that increases overall safety.
To that end, it's not just the driver keeping an eye on the car's status. The car also watches the human with a driver monitoring camera and will alert the driver if it detects that the person's eyes are closed or if they're just not paying attention. These warnings can take the form of audio buzzes, a vibrating seat belt, or flashes on the heads-up display. Lexus says the Teammate concept has been tested and developed over the past five years.
As a part of Lexus Teammate, Advanced Drive technology also debuts in the 2022 LS 500h. Advanced Drive is a Level 2 hands-free system that works on limited-access highways under certain conditions, similar to Super Cruise from General Motors. Toyota will also add Advanced Drive to the Japan-market Mirai fuel-cell electric vehicle.
Though still rare, these hands-free Level 2 ADAS are increasingly common. More automakers are planning similar technology, such as Volvo's upcoming Highway Pilot technology, slated to debut in the redesigned 2022 XC90 SUV.
But Lexus is making it obvious that this technology – for now, at least – is really about two players who are on the same team.