The technology relies on artificial intelligence (a recurring theme at this year’s show though parent-company, Toyota), learning from nearby road users to gather information about roads and conditions.
Highway Mate technology will initially be configured to operate in highway driving conditions, something car makers consider a relatively easy driverless environment due to predictable traffic, clean road surfaces, and good lane markings.
As the Japanese brand’s “vision for the near future” Lexus says the system will be capable of merging onto freeways, maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles, position itself within a lane, overtake other vehicles if required, and exit freeway networks before handing control back to the driver.
The one-off concept is a significant step for Lexus, which has been comparatively quiet on its autonomous technology while luxury rivals forged on.
Lexus is planning to introduce the ‘level four’ autonomous technology (able to drive without human intervention but with limitations as to where and when it will engage) to a production vehicle by 2020.
Highway Mate has also been designed to be updated as new functionality is added, communicating with a central data centre.
To go with the advanced autonomous technology, Lexus has also treated the still-fresh LS to a styling overhaul.
The most distinctive change is the new spindle grille, which incorporates LED lights and an innovative shutter system that blocks off the small air intakes to improve fuel economy at higher speeds and cooling at lower speeds.
The active system opens when required before closing to smooth the airflow, in turn reducing fuel use.
Lexus has also debuted a new interpretation of its controversial spindle grille, with a more clearly defined leading edge, leading into massive new triangular headlamps. Rear lights also come in for an upsize with both ends featuring extensive LED illumination, plus laser-lit elements.
The more aggressive styling is expected to transition onto Lexus’ production models over time.
Other detail changes that give the LS+ its space-age look while improving fuel efficiency include supercar-style flush door handles, and downsized exterior mirrors that use rear-view camera in place of traditional glass.
MORE: Lexus News and Reviews