Toyota Mirai, Lexus LS 500h to debut “partial hands-free” driver-assistance system

Toyota is launching a new driver-assist system on two electrified models, but it’s taking a somewhat more conservative approach than Tesla Autopilot, and some systems from other established automakers. Toyota Teammate and Lexus Teammate will launch on the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan and Lexus LS 500h luxury sedan, respectively. Both versions include an “Advanced […]

Toyota is launching a new driver-assist system on two electrified models, but it’s taking a somewhat more conservative approach than Tesla Autopilot, and some systems from other established automakers.

Toyota Teammate and Lexus Teammate will launch on the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan and Lexus LS 500h luxury sedan, respectively. Both versions include an “Advanced Drive” feature that allows low-level automation of acceleration, braking, and steering on limited-access highways. An “Advanced Park” automated-parking feature will be included as well. Lexus has confirmed that Teammate will be available in the United States on all-wheel drive versions of the LS 500h this fall, but Toyota has not confirmed U.S. availability on the Mirai.

While Toyota has said Advanced Drive will allow cars to negotiate lane changes, certain highway interchanges, and stop-and-go traffic, it only considers this functionality to be Level 2 on the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) vehicle-automation scale, and emphasizes that drivers need to keep their eyes on the road at all times.

2022 Lexus LS 500h with Lexus Teammate

2022 Lexus LS 500h with Lexus Teammate

Teammate uses a camera to monitor the driver, and while a Lexus press release for the United States said the system would allow “partial hands-free, eyes-on-the-road operation,” a release from Toyota’s global media site said drivers will have to hold the steering wheel during lane changes.

This is a conservative approach compared to Tesla Navigate on Autopilot, as well as General Motors Super Cruise or Ford Active Drive Assist, all of which are marketed as allowing a greater degree of hands-free driving.

However, that may be a wise approach, given the ease with which advanced driver-assist systems are confused with autonomous driving. Tesla has further muddied the waters by selling a “Full Self-Driving Capability” package with its Navigate on Autopilot functionality, and teasing the various iterations of the package as stepping stones to self-driving cars and autonomous robotaxi capability.

2022 Lexus LS 500h with Lexus Teammate

2022 Lexus LS 500h with Lexus Teammate

Tesla also thinks it can achieve that goal without lidar sensors, an opinion that isn’t shared by other automakers, or tech companies like Waymo that are testing prototype self-driving cars. Fisker also plans to skip lidar (initially, at least), but hasn’t delivered any cars to customers and will use a vehicle platform from supplier Magna.

Lucid Motors promises to take a different tech approach that sounds closer to what other automakers have been offering than to Tesla’s approach. Its DreamDrive system uses lidar, and will also have privacy controls, and a driver-monitoring system.

Given Toyota’s plans for electric vehicles, and its choice to roll out the technology on two electrified products first, will its upcoming EVs be next to get Teammate?