Toyota clears the way for autonomous cars with new map generation scheme

It was only earlier this year when Toyota introduced the low-cost Safety Sense, using the RAV4 Hybrid's launch as a debut platform

The Japanese giant wants to push things further with a new map generation system that will ultimately pave the way for autonomous vehicles.

In case that sounds a bit Google-ish to you, we're here to confirm your hunch. In a nutshell, Toyota is working on a "high-precision map generation system" bound to be introduced in Las Vegas, at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016.

The similarity with Google's system – the one using Street View cars – lies in the fact that Toyota's fleet of production models will process data gathered via onboard cameras and GPS equipment to render a fully detailed map layout.

Here's how it works: as the vehicles collect data from the environment they travel in, the information (including road images, vehicle position, road signs and speed limits) is forwarded to data centers where computers correct, piece together and update the info into highly-detailed road maps. The projected margin error is under 5 cm on straight roads.

Toyota says this new mapping system will open the door for the brand's first autonomous vehicles, expected to show up in 2020. However, Japanese officials added that the system will limit to highway use at first, but as development advances, secondary roads and urban areas will be covered by the map.

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