Lexus highlights safety technologies at CES

January 11, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Nothing less than an era of integrated safety technologies is what Japanese carmaker Lexus is promising at the current Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In its struggle to reduce traffic fatalities, the company summons up a broad range of sensor technologies.

At the CES, Lexus shows a research vehicle equipped with GPS; stereo cameras, radar and a 360° lidar system. The latter is installed on the roof of the vehicle and can detect objects at distances of up to 70 meters. The lidar system is supported in its task of generating a complete image of the vehicle environment by three high-resolution color cameras with a distance range of some 150 meters. One of the three is looking in forward direction and recognizes - among other objects - traffic lights. The other two cameras scan the area behind the car.

Frontal and lateral radar sensors identify position and speed of vehicles around the Lexus LS demo vehicle. Thus, they generate a complete panorama, something particular useful at crossroads and intersections. More sensors are located at the rear wheels and on the roofs, measuring speed as well as acceleration in longitudinal and lateral directions.

The CES demo is part of Lexus' strategy to improve the safety of its cars, a Lexus spokesperson explained. "In the first place, we are working on bringing lidar sensors to production maturity", he said. "In this context, the sensors are intended to improve the overall safety situation." While lidar sensors are typically associated with autonomous driving - at the legendary DARPA research projects aiming at autonomous driving, the winning vehicles frequently relied on lidar sensors - this is not the case at Lexus. "The goal is safety and production maturity", the spokesperson said.

This does not mean that Lexus is not conducting research for autonomous driving: Late in 2012, the company put a large test area in operation dedicated to autonomous driving tests. The test area is equipped with a large number of objects such as traffic signs and traffic lights, creating a near-real world driving experience for the robot cars.