Toyota/Lexus Beef Up Safety and Driver Assistance Technology

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

To keep pace with rivals, engineers have been hard at work improving the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) suite of advanced driver assistance technologies. Scheduled to launch around the middle of next year, the second-generation of this system sports new features and additional refinements.

TSS and its upscale sibling Lexus Safety System+ (LSS+) include an array of convenience and potentially life-saving amenities, things like automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

Building on this foundation, the second-generation of this system gains a number of important elements. For starters, the Pre-Collision System now has the ability to brake harder than before, plus it can detect pedestrians and cyclists in both broad daylight and under the cover of darkness.

Additionally, Lane-Departure Alert has been improved, bolstered with road-edge detection, something that should help prevent crashes by keeping drivers in their desired lane of travel, away from the ditch or oncoming traffic.

Adaptive cruise control, that’s Full Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control in Toyota parlance, has been updated as well, gaining the ability to operate at a broader range of speeds thanks to more advanced sensors.

One of the new features added to Toyota Safety Sense is Road Sign Assist. Tapping into the onboard camera system’s feature set, this could help motorists identify commonplace signage while driving, keeping them abreast of roadway changes or speed limits by displaying reminders in the meter cluster or, if equipped, head-up display. This will be enabled in various places around the world, from North America and Europe to the company’s home market of Japan.

Finally, Lane Tracing Assist is another new addition. It helps keep a vehicle centered in its lane while the adaptive cruise control is active, taking just a little more stress out of the driving process.

We haven’t tested Lane Tracing Assist yet, but it will probably perform much like Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist feature, an advanced adaptive cruise-control system that also features lane-centering technology, which takes much of the stress out of long-haul drives.

SEE ALSO: Nissan ProPILOT Assist Takes Adaptive Cruise Control to the Next Level

To date, the first generation of TSS has been installed on more than 5 million vehicles sold in North America, Japan and Europe. The second generation of this system is practically guaranteed to broaden its appeal and popularity. It’s slated to launch on Toyota select models in the U.S. around the middle of next year.

Further pushing the envelope, Lexus will debut even more driver-assistance technology on its flagship 2018 LS sedan, which is slated to launch in early February.

The luxury automaker’s Lexus Safety System +A (LSS +A) has even more new features to boast about, gaining active steering assist, front cross-traffic alert and even parking support.

The steering-assist portion of this equation is designed to reduce pedestrian fatalities in urban areas. Should someone unexpectedly step out in front of a 2018 LS sedan equipped with LSS +A, the car can detect them and automatically brake on its own, preventing or at least reducing the severity of the impending impact.

But at speeds between about 35 and 40 miles an hour, the car can also steer around a pedestrian by scooting over to the far edge of its lane, giving a bit of extra breathing room, which could be the difference between life and death.

Testing this feature by driving toward a dummy nicknamed Elvis because of his killer sideburns, the car detected him at a distance and warned me to slow down, both through the audio system and visually on the head-up display. When I ignored this alert (as instructed by a Lexus representative) the car automatically performed a panic stop and swerved to the left side of its lane, avoiding a collision with the hapless King of Rock and Roll.

But it’s worth reiterating, automatic steering only engages at speeds slower than about 40 miles an hour, any faster than this and the vehicle could lose control, creating an even more dangerous situation. Additionally, the car will not leave its lane of travel, which, again, could be extremely dangerous. Steering assist is designed to help reduce crashes with pedestrians, to avoid whacking some inattentive person that steps off the curb without looking first.

SEE ALSO: 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show Coverage

LSS +A also gains front cross-traffic alert, which should help drivers see around corners, particularly in tight urban areas. With a wide-angle camera mounted on each side of its front bumper, the 2018 LS sedan can see out into intersections before its driver. If opposing traffic is detected, it can alert him or her with both audio and visual warnings, giving them an opportunity to stop before entering the intersection, however, with this feature the braking is not automatic.

Finally, Parking Support Plus Brake (PKSB) is something worth covering. Like others mentioned earlier, this feature is designed to prevent pedestrian injuries. While reversing, it can detect an individual walking in the new LS’s path and automatically stop the car before running into them.

Compared to Toyota Safety Sense, the extra functionality provided by LSS +A is enabled by an array of additional sensors including a forward-facing stereoscopic camera instead of a mono unit and four extra radar arrays, one at each of the vehicle’s corners.

Launching on the 2018 LS sedan, which is slated to go on sale in early February of next year, Lexus Safety System +A is an option that’s expected to cost around $3,500, though pricing hasn’t been finalized. It will come bundled with other goodies including a panoramic-view camera.

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Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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