Toyota developed a new test vehicle for self-driving tech

Toyota unveiled a vehicle here developed specifically for researching and developing a range of autonomous-driving technologies.

The vehicle was introduced to the public for the first time at an event held at an auto raceway in this northern California city. It is based on the current-generation Lexus LS 600hL hybrid, but a system for testing various autonomous-driving technologies and collecting data has been added.

The leading Japanese automaker first showed off its test vehicle for autonomous driving in 2013 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Since then, the company has stepped up efforts to develop self-driving vehicles. For instance, it established the Toyota Research Institute in Silicon Valley in January last year to boost R&D on artificial intelligence, with a plan to invest $1 billion over five years.

Securing talent was the main reason Silicon Valley was chosen for the location. TRI currently employs around 150 people in Silicon Valley and the U.S. states of Massachusetts and Michigan. It plans to increase the staff to 250 shortly.

“This new advanced safety research vehicle is the first autonomous testing platform developed entirely by TRI,” Gill Pratt, the institute’s chief executive officer, is quoted as saying in a statement from Toyota.

The vehicle’s ability to handle various levels of autonomous driving likely will help Toyota advance its existing drive-assist system at a faster pace, as well as realize a goal of commercializing autonomous vehicles that can safely travel on the highway in around 2020.

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