Toyota will first roll out its Level 4 self-driving technology in its Lexus luxury brand before letting it trickle down to more reasonably priced models.
One of the reasons for starting with Lexus and the premium category is the steep cost of these advanced systems, reports Autonews.
"It requires sensors that see a long distance and very high-performance computers, which are very expensive," said Ken Koibuchi, Toyota's executive general manager for autonomous driving.
Another reason is the fact that Toyota knows there are safety benefits resulting from prioritizing the proliferation of more basic active safety systems such as lane-trace assist and systems that prevent pedal misapplication. Meanwhile, more advanced systems, like automatic lane-change, will be late to arrive in the U.S.
The reason for this is of course, safety. In the U.S., it takes longer to verify such systems and get them approved while taking into account diverse traffic conditions, traffic laws, divergent driving habits and so on.
"Many U.S. roads have blurred lane markers or a variety of different lines drawn on the road. It's very difficult," said Toyota executive manager for autonomous driving Ken Koibuchi. "We have not done sufficient verification yet."
Toyota has usually developed their self-driving technologies in Japan, only to later tweak them for U.S. driving conditions. One such example would be the all-new Lexus LS flagship, which features several self-driving functions in Japan that won't be immediately available in the U.S, like lane-change assist or the lane tracing feature that can steer the car through highway bends.
Still, in the future, Toyota will look to develop its autonomous tech for both markets simultaneously, confirmed Koibuchi.