Lexus Teammate driver-assistance system needs to know you’re there
Lexus’s Teammate driver-assistance system flashed pink at me and grew impatient. As I ignored its alerts to take management of the steering wheel, it rang audible alerts in growing ranges of alarm.
I needed to see if I might sport the hands-free driving system, however Teammate wouldn’t have it.
A number of swift tugs to the shoulder seat belt of the Lexus LS500h take a look at car snapped me to consideration. I put my arms again on the wheel, my foot on the accelerator, then waited till the show turned blue to renew utilizing the efficient however conservative semi-autonomous driving system.
Conservative is just not a criticism in terms of easing the fatigue of lengthy street journeys and, by extension, street security. Deemed a Degree 2 system on the SAE’s 5 ranges of driving autonomy, Teammate is an enhancement of adaptive cruise management that’s supplied on many new automobiles on sale in the present day.
In a restricted 30-minute demo on the sprawling concrete plains outdoors of Toyota Motors North America’s headquarters in Plano, Texas, the LS 500h take a look at car proved the system greater than protected to make use of. It’s not as assured as GM’s Tremendous Cruise rolling out in additional Cadillac autos, neither is it as straightforward to govern as Tesla’s Autopilot supplied throughout its lineup. Nevertheless it has problem working when the motive force wears polarized sun shades.
For now, with rollout restricted this fall to the low quantity 2022 Lexus LS 500h flagship hybrid sedan with all-wheel drive, it feels as if Lexus is gauging the system’s permissiveness. Final yr, solely 3,617 individuals purchased the LS 500 within the U.S., marking the worst yr of gross sales for the reason that luxurious liner launched. Solely 66 of them had been the hybrid mannequin.
So why launch Teammate within the 2022 LS 500h AWD?
“It’s our flagship system in our flagship car,” mentioned Derek Caveney, government engineer at Toyota Motors North America.
It feels extra like a trial run. GM did the identical when it launched Tremendous Cruise late in 2017 for the 2018 Cadillac CT6 flagship sedan. In 2019, Cadillac discontinued the CT6, however Tremendous Cruise migrated to the 2021 Escalade full-size SUV, Cadillac’s hottest mannequin, and rollout continues within the CT4 and CT5 sedans.
Lexus will provide Teammate on all its hybrids, finally, with each mannequin having an electrified variant by 2025. However the group has some kinks to work out.
The way it works
Teammate displays the ethos of an organization recognized for rolling out new know-how incrementally if not slowly. Whereas Teammate consists of Superior Park that helps park the automotive, we solely examined the Superior Drive part on the freeway. Utilizing sensors surrounding the automotive, a front-facing long-range LiDAR system, short-range radar on the edges, and a collection of cameras, together with a driver-facing monitor mounted on the steering column identical as Tremendous Cruise, Teammate can provide a number of minutes of hands-free driving underneath the correct circumstances.
Not like Tremendous Cruise or Tesla’s Autopilot that may go for for much longer stretches of time, Teammate will request the motive force to the touch the steering wheel periodically, however Toyota wouldn’t say how continuously. Each ten minutes can be probably the most beneficiant estimate; on our route, previous many ramps and merges, it was a few minutes.
Toyota additionally wouldn’t disclose the breadth of Teammate’s functionality on highways with on- and off-ramp throughout the U.S. via its partnership with TomTom.
“Mapping is on the identical scale as GM, so over 100,000 miles however underneath 300,000 miles,” Caveney defined. “We’re concentrating on all restricted entry highways.”
The Superior Drive part may be activated with or with out navigation; with navigation set, the system may be extra predictive by adjusting speeds at flyovers, for example, and the show on the correct facet of the cluster will record what number of tenths of a mile left till the system will deactivate as a consequence of an off-ramp.
It may be used with out setting the navigation, as straightforward as setting the adaptive cruise management. Press the ACC icon and when the system is prepared a message will seem that claims “Superior Drive prepared.” When the cluster show turns from grey to blue, the voice will say “Superior Drive activated.”
You at all times know what the system is doing, from the big steering wheel icon within the show to the superb head-up show projecting the lanes, surrounding site visitors, and system standing. The cluster projection exhibits the define of semis so you understand if a semi is merging in your blind spots, for instance.
It reads lanes effectively and maintains the middle, and will cross by off-ramps with out getting confused or requiring intervention. With merging, it’s going to decelerate accordingly, however require a contact on the steering wheel to know you’re there.
The capacitive contact wheel has sensors built-in with the heating factor, so gently tapping anyplace on the wheel is sufficient to placate the system. However the system wants steady reassurances.
The automated lane change perform requires a light-weight hand on the steering wheel; you’re not steering although however you may as effectively be if it’s important to contact the wheel.
When the system requires you to take over, an alert will pop up within the cluster, adopted by an audible reminder. A hand must go to the wheel, a foot must go on the pedal, and also you should be trying on the street forward to fulfill takeover at an off-ramp, for example. Restarting the system with a button push is as straightforward as restarting adaptive cruise management.
The conservative nature of the system is match for individuals within the know-how however not keen to cede complete management to the machine. It’s the anti-Autopilot.
A evident downside
Teammate lends a hand on street journeys, as designed, however it may well’t overcome one evident downside: the driver-facing digicam could be very delicate.
It wouldn’t permit hands-free driving after I had on my polarized Ray-Bans, that are a fairly primary set of sun shades. Different testers mentioned the identical about their Maui Jims and different off-brand shades. However, the Toyota/Lexus rep giving my demo with prescription sun shades labored advantageous.
Most street trippers can be driving throughout the day and sporting sun shades, so it’s an issue TMNA is conscious of. It doesn’t sound like will probably be overcome when the 2022 LS 500h AWD goes on sale this fall, regardless of over-the-air updates a number of instances a yr to maintain the system contemporary. Teammate can nonetheless be enabled, however it’s going to ask for a hand on the wheel.
A short lived resolution till the problem is mounted is for Lexus to supply all homeowners of Teammate a pair of permitted sun shades, or in any case a really useful record of manufacturers.
Tesla’s mislabeled Autopilot is just like the wild west of restricted hands-free driving programs because it doesn’t have a driver monitor. Cadillac’s Tremendous Cruise is rather more assured in prolonged hands-free freeway driving. With Ford’s Blue Cruise set to launch this yr, Lexus wants to repair its driver monitor to keep up a aggressive benefit sooner or later.