Toyota’s Newest Autonomous Technology, “Guardian”

The brand's new system will work in tandem with the driver to prevent accidents but take over in learned situations

While the capabilities of autonomous technology continue to expand, Toyota is emphasizing the importance of a balance in responsibility. The Toyota Research Institute is testing its 100% autonomous “Chauffeur” system, but it’s the “Guardian” program that is garnering a large portion of the brand’s attention, signaling an investment and trust in humanity’s capabilities—with the help of smart technology.

The TRI-P4, the vehicle which will do all of Toyota‘s testing, is the Lexus LS sedan model (identical to the ones available now) outfitted with a slew of cameras and two new imaging sensors, we learn today at CES. And, it’s equipped with an expectedly placed (at least in comparison to other test models) eight-head LIDAR system atop the vehicle’s main roof. But, what sets this test vehicle apart from others is what’s expected of it—the computing power of this vehicle is significantly higher than both its predecessors and its competition. Its upped capabilities make it quicker to learn and react.

Both of the latter are keystones of a successful autonomous vehicle. A byproduct of advancing autonomous research, however, is foresight into what may be most appealing to modern drivers: a vehicle that combines the capabilities of its human driver with the data-driven, machine-learned tools of a smart operating system. The “Guardian” program, as Toyota is titling it, amplifies the driver’s control. They remain in command at all times, but the system can anticipate and identify an accident and respond long before it happens by taking over the vehicle’s braking and steering mechanisms to avoid the incident.

The theory, referred to as the “blended envelope control” system, is akin to ones used in fighter jets where the pilot ultimately has control—of when and where to go—but is guided to avoid catastrophic circumstances. It’s a discreet embedding of cutting-edge technology that feels less jarring than fully autonomous operating systems.

Acclimating fully autonomous machines to social cues, unspoken rules of the road and sudden (albeit human) errors will, despite rapid advancement, still take years. To bridge the gap between futuristic wishes and modern solutions, Toyota is working to address mobility issues as they exist right now.

Images courtesy of Toyota