Toyota’s latest self-driving car prototype has two steering wheels

Self-driving cars are supposed to make human drivers obsolete. Companies are debating whether fully autonomous cars need manual controls at all. So why did Toyota build an autonomous test vehicle with not one, but two steering wheels?

The vehicle, a modified Lexus LS 600hL from Toyota’s luxury brand, retains its conventional steering wheel, pedals, and gauge cluster on the left side of the dashboard. But the person sitting in what would normally be the passenger’s seat gets a wheel and pedals of their own, plus a display screen. This unusual setup will help test methods of transferring control from the car to a human driver, according to a Toyota press release.

Exactly how control is passed back and forth between humans and machines is one of many major unresolved issues with self-driving cars. It is substantially more difficult to build a fully autonomous car than one that relies on assistance from a human driver. But people who get used to the car doing the driving may not be alert enough to take over when the autonomous systems reach their limits.

The dual-steering wheel setup is part of testing for Toyota’s new “Platform 2.1” autonomous-driving tech suite. It also incorporates a new lidar system from startup Luminar, a display that clearly shows when the vehicle is in autonomous mode, and two driving modes: “Chauffeur” and “Guardian.”

As the name implies, Chauffeur is the fully autonomous option, where the car does all of the driving. Guardian leaves a human driver in control, but the autonomous driving system is still active and can intervene to prevent a crash. Testing of both driving modes is underway on a closed course; it’s unclear if Toyota will try them out on public roads anytime soon.

Toyota’s dual-mode approach differs somewhat from other self-driving car developers. While many automakers and tech companies subscribe to the idea that the majority of self-driving cars will be used in sharing services by consumers disinterested in driving, Toyota appears to be leaving the option open for people to continue driving themselves. But getting large numbers of human-driven and autonomous cars to coexist could be tricky: Humans introduce more variables for autonomous systems to deal with.

Cars

Peloton’s tech lets truckers play follow the leader to boost fuel economy

Peloton Technology can help semi trucks save fuel by running close together on the highway. Using short-range wireless communications, the trucks get a kind of super cruise control.
Cars

Nissan IMs concept teases a future long-range, autonomous electric car

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Nissan IMs is an electric car with a 380-mile range, autonomous-driving capability, and a backseat designed for being chauffeured. Too bad it's just a concept car.
Cars

Self-driving, electric, and connected, the cars of CES 2019 hint at the future

Car companies remained surprisingly quiet during CES 2018. But they spoke up in 2019. From electric hatchbacks you can buy in 2019 to super-futuristic mood-detecting technology, here are the major announcements we covered during the event.
Cars

Ride with Batman, thanks to Intel and Warner Bros.’ car entertainment system

Instead of driving a car yourself in the future, you could kick back and read Batman comics as the vehicle drives you autonomously. That's the concept introduced by a Dark Knight-themed concept car at CES 2019.
Cars

China’s GAC Motor cruises into Detroit with all-electric Entranze concept

Chinese automaker GAC Motor brought its all-electric Entranze concept to the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. This is the third straight year that GAC has appeared in Detroit, and the company has established a design center in California.
Cars

2020 Ford Explorer branches out with sporty ST, efficiency-focused hybrid models

The 2020 Ford Explorer gets two variants never before seen on Ford's stalwart family hauler. The ST focuses on performance, while the hybrid aims for decent gas mileage. Both models will debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.
Cars

Some of Volkswagen’s electric models will wear a ‘Made in the USA’ label

Confirming earlier rumors, Volkswagen has announced it will build electric cars in its Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory. The facility currently produces the Passat and the Atlas. Production will start in 2023, Digital Trends can reveal.
Cars

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti will unveil the QX Inspiration concept at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language that may point to a future production model.
Cars

Hyundai’s Veloster N hot hatchback will prove its mettle on the track

The Hyundai Veloster N will go racing to prove the credibility of Hyundai's new N performance division. Unveiled at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Veloster N race car will compete in a class with other small cars.
Cars

The 2020 Lexus RC F goes on a diet to run faster and hit harder

The Lexus RC F has been one of the heavier cars in its competitive set since its introduction. The Japanese firm's engineers set out to shed weight as they gave the model a mid-cycle update.
Cars

Lexus LC convertible concept teases a new open-air flagship

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Lexus LC convertible concept adds open-air motoring to the sleek LC's resume. But Lexus won't commit to a production version of the car just yet.
Cars

Fast and Furious fans get revved up: Toyota’s Supra sports car is back

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.
Cars

Muscle cars, trucks, and EVs roared into the subdued 2019 Detroit Auto Show

The 2019 Detroit Auto Show was the quietest edition of the event in recent memory, but that doesn't mean nothing significant happened inside the Cobo Center. Here are the new cars and concepts we saw at the show.
Cars

Big tech, bigger grille: BMW updates its 7 Series flagship for 2020

The BMW 7 Series will enter the 2020 model year with a host of updates inside, outside, and under the sheet metal. The new-look nose with a jumbo grille hides updated engines, while passengers benefit from smart tech features.