Lexus to introduce ‘Highway Teammate’ driver assist feature that doesn’t require the driver to have their hands on the steering wheel

Lexus LS concept

Lexus president Koji Soto told Automotive News Europe that the luxury automaker will be unveiling a new feature later this year that some say will rival Tesla’s Autopilot.

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Dubbed “Highway Teammate” (really?), the new system uses lidar (again, really?) as well as cameras to help guide the car, and will be able to change lanes and pass other vehicles without driver input.

No details were provided about which vehicle would have this feature, or in what markets it would be available. In 2017 Lexus revealed the LS (large sedan) concept vehicle that would have autonomous capabilities.

The most interesting part of the new feature is that it will allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel, and will not provide prompts or notifications to the driver to keep their hands on the wheel at all times, like Tesla’s Autopilot system.

The only requirement mentioned by Soto to use Highway Teammate was that the driver would have to keep their eyes on the road at all times. No details were given about how Lexus would enforce this inside the vehicle. Soto also noted that a future over-the-air update for the vehicle would allow level 3 autonomy, where the driver can take their eyes of the road as well.

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Considering that Tesla has been raked over the coals for “allowing” driver to cheat the prompts to keep their hands on the wheel at all times, you would think this feature would be heralded as a stupid idea, and one that would be ripe for abuse from stupid drivers. But you’d be wrong – Business Insider claims Lexus has a new feature “that will have one big feature that Autopilot doesn’t.”

It will be interesting to see how this feature pans out when (and if) it is eventually released, and how Lexus is going to ensure that drivers keep their eyes on the road at all times.

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