| 8:42 AM EST

TRI to Provide Autonomous Rides in Tokyo Next Year

The folks at TRI have been hard at work trying to develop autonomous driving technology and comparatively keeping under the radar, metaphorically speaking. But in Tokyo next year they’re going to be showing what the P4 can do.
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Google Map Odaiba

Odaiba shown on a Google Map. (Image: Google)

According to Japan-Guide.com, the Odaiba district in Tokyo is “one of Tokyo's most popular tourist attractions and date spots with a wide selection of shopping, dining and leisure options.” It is actually an island (man-made, incidentally) that is now covered with shopping facilities, restaurants, clubs, exhibition centers, office complexes and a whole lot more.

And next summer Odaiba is where the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) will be offering automated driving demonstration rides to the public in its modified fifth-gen Lexus LS, the vehicle that TRI designates “P4.”


The Toyota Research Institute P4 vehicle. (Image: TRI)

This will be a demonstration of the “Chauffeur” version of the system that TRI is developing in parallel with its “Guardian” functionality. The Chauffer system is an SAE Level 4 vehicle, meaning that the car drives and all of the people in the vehicle are passengers (although to stay within the requirements of Japanese law, there will be a safety driver in position behind the wheel, ready to take over should something go awry). The Guardian system essentially enhances a driver’s capabilities behind the wheel by monitoring the environment and providing prompts and inputs to help keep the driver safe: this can be thought of as SAE Level 2 on steroids.

TRI has been doing extensive testing of the P4 vehicle at its test facility in Ottawa Lake, Michigan, and has been testing the P4 software on public roads around Ann Arbor and Los Altos, but it is worth noting that it has been comparatively discrete in its approach to developing autonomous driving capability, unlike other companies that seemingly do as much proclaiming as programming.

So this public demonstration is a big deal.

Gill Pratt, TRI CEO, said of the undertaking, “By challenging ourselves to successfully operate autonomously in Odaiba, we have set a high bar that requires us to rapidly expand the capabilities of our technology in a short amount of time.”

Know that P4 was introduced earlier this year.

He added of the efforts that are being deployed to accomplish the mobility as a service demonstration, “We are working closely with the Advanced R&D Division of Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD) based in Tokyo, who is responsible for bringing the P4’s automated driving software to the public.”

Not coincidentally, the Tokyo Olympic Games are being held July 24 to August 9, 2020.