CES LIVE: Toyota shows third-generation autonomous prototype

The latest version can \'see\' 200 meters around a 360-degree perimeter.

Toyota has detailed its third-generation autonomous prototype vehicle ahead at CES.

Based on a Lexus LS 600hL, the Platform 3.0 development vehicle features a subtler sensor array on the roof and partially hidden lidar pucks on all four sides.

Toyota aimed to package the automated technology in a way that will be easier to manufacture for an entire fleet at scale. The lidar equipment is presumably far from production-viable in terms of cost, however, with each puck likely carrying a multi-thousand-dollar price tag.

The Japanese automaker has partnered with a startup, Luminar, that is developing a unique lidar system capable of creating a high-definition 3D map of the vehicle's surroundings out to 200 meters -- considered the minimum for forward visibility at highway speeds.

It is unclear if Luminar has achieved its goal of undercutting the prohibitively high costs of traditional scanning-laser systems produced by Velodyne and other suppliers. Tesla claims to have eliminated the need for lidar, instead relying on camera- and radar-based vision, but all other players apparently view lidar as indispensable.

Toyota's latest announcement lacks details of the company's progress in terms of software. A workable fully autonomous software platform is arguably an even larger barrier to production viability than sensor costs.

CES will provide an opportunity for all automakers to demonstrate their autonomous vehicle capabilities as the apparent leader Waymo prepares to roll out driverless taxi service.

Live images by Ronan Glon.

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