Lexus teases autonomous vehicle ahead of CES debut

Lexus on Friday released a quick teaser video of a self-driving project vehicle the automaker will introduce to the public at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show on Monday, Jan. 7.

The brief clip shows a full-size 2013 Lexus LS sedan driving on the road with a host of electronic gear attached to its front grille and the roof. A person can be seen in the driver's seat, in accordance with a new California law that took effect at the beginning of the year.

That law makes legal in California autonomous vehicles if a licensed driver is at the wheel and able to assume full manual control of the vehicle at any point.

Lexus announced in December 2012 that it would reveal at Monday's news conference in Las Vegas "an advanced active safety research vehicle." Lexus General Manager Mark Templin will unveil the vehicle and program, which the company says is "designed to explore the use of autonomous technologies and high-level driver assistance systems."

Already, automakers are pouring millions of dollars into systems that hand more control of a vehicle to a complex network of sensors and computers. Features such as collision avoidance systems that sense a potential crash and trigger the brakes or an alert that tells drivers they are wandering into adjacent lanes are making their way into more cars every year.

Such systems could reduce accidents due to distracted or impaired drivers. On Thursday, the CDC issued a report saying that 4.2% of drivers in a survey reported they had fallen asleep at the wheel at least once in the past month.

Automotive tire and electronics manufacturer Continental Corp. is also developing a self-driving car as well as autonomous systems, such as collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control, for existing vehicles.

"It's clear to us that automated driving will be a key element in the mobility of the future," said Dr. Elmar Degenhart, chairman of the executive board of Continental. "We will be able to develop the first applications for highly and ultimately fully automated driving, even at higher speeds and in more complex driving situations, ready for production by 2020 or 2025."

Others working on self-driving vehicles include tech giant Google.

The Google team has about a dozen self-driving cars in operation -- all with a human behind the wheel ready to take over at any time. The cars have driven a combined 300,000 miles in varied traffic conditions without any accidents while under computer control.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said autonomous cars could be functional and safe for operation on public streets within a few years.


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