Toyota's new autonomous test platform gets smarter over time

Toyota Research Institute's autonomous driving tests seem to be moving right along, with the auto maker today introducing its 2.0 generation autonomous test vehicle. The plug-and-play test platform has been built on the back of the Lexus LS600hL, and is designed to explore two important facets of autonomous driving.

Those two areas are, as Toyota calls them, "Chauffeur" and "Guardian." Chauffeur, as you've probably already guessed, deals with fully autonomous driving. With this new system in place, Toyota Research Institute will explore SAE Level 5 autonomous driving. Level 5 refers to full autonomous driving, regardless of road or environmental conditions, for all driving modes.

Chauffeur won't only tackle Level 5 driving, as Level 4 restricted driving is also on the docket. For those unfamiliar with SAE's autonomous driving standards, Level 4 designates "high automation" in self-driving cars. While the car can handle most operations and reactions, the system still needs to fall back on the driver for some driving modes.

Guardian, on the other hand, is meant to leave control in the hands of the driver while the autonomous system examines the driving environment. The system will alert the driver to any dangers that may exist, and if the driver fails to respond, the system can take over and help with crash avoidance.

According to today's announcement, this is the first autonomous testing platform that has been entirely development by TRI. It will employ machine learning to get smarter as it's used more, both learning the quirks of an individual driver and exchanging data with other cars to improve.

While Level 5 autonomous driving is still a long way off, Toyota's work with Guardian could see real world applications sooner rather than later. We'll have to keep an eye on this new test platform as Toyota puts it through its paces, because this will probably turn out to be very interesting work indeed.