Toyota promises driverless cars on roads by 2020

Toyota Highway Teammate Image copyright Toyota
Image caption Toyota tested its self-driving Highway Teammate car on a public road

Toyota has become the latest car manufacturer to test a driverless vehicle on a public road.

The car, a modified Lexus GS, was tested on Tokyo's Shuto Expressway, where it carried out a range of automated manoeuvres.

These included merging into highways, changing lanes and keeping inter-vehicular distance.

Toyota said it aimed to launch related products "by around 2020", when Tokyo is due to host the Olympic Games.

Straightforward conditions

According to Toyota, the car "uses multiple external sensors to recognise nearby vehicles and hazards, and selects appropriate routes and lanes depending on the destination".

Based on these data inputs, it "automatically operates the steering wheel, accelerator and brakes" to drive in much the same way as a person would, said the firm.

In its current iteration, however, the car can only be operated in the more straightforward driving conditions of a main road.

The company said it expected to bring such a car to market by 2020, but has not said whether it will offer vehicles suitable for city streets.

Fresh competition

Toyota is the latest car company to push forward with plans for an autonomous vehicle, offering fresh competition to Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Cruise and Tesla.

Last week, General Motors said it was offering driverless rides to workers at its research and development facility in Warren, Michigan.

Nissan has promised to put an automated car on Japan's roads as early as 2016.

However, Google is already testing its self-driving cars on US city streets. And Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said in July his company was "almost ready" to make its cars go driverless on main roads and parallel-park themselves.