Lexus previews self-driving technology

Lexus has joined the race towards autonomous cars with its LS+ Concept that debuts a system called Highway Mate.

Revealed at the 2017 Tokyo motor show, the technology uses artificial intelligence and gleans data from other road users to constantly learn about the roads and conditions.

Describing it as a “vision for the near future” the Highway Mate technology is initially designed to take over the driving duties on a freeway, something car makers consider a relatively easy driverless environment due to predictable traffic, clean road surfaces and good lane markings.

Lexus says the car will be able to merge onto the freeway, stay a safe distance from other vehicles, maintain its lane, overtake other vehicles and exit the freeway 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.

The striking-looking machine carries Lexus design forward. Photo: Supplied

And Lexus is planning to make the level four autonomous technology available in a production car, with plans to have the Highway Mate system available in 2020.

Highway Mate has also been designed to be updated as new functionality is added, communicating with a central data centre.

But it’s the styling that is the standout of the LS+ Concept.

It gives clues to the evolution of Lexus design through its sleek and futuristic four-door shape.

Based on the bones of the new generation large LS sedan flagship that arrives in Australia in 2018, the LS+ Concept is slightly longer and wider but with a lower roofline for a sleeker look.

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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 air flow, in turn reducing fuel use.

While some active aerodynamic systems at the front of vehicles are hidden or difficult to see, the one of the LS+ Concept significantly changes the look of the car.

Lexus has also exaggerated the look of its front and rear lights, some of which are now lasers, teaming with extensive LED light treatment.

It makes for an aggressive look, something expected to be woven into future Lexus models.

The concept also has impressive detailing, including door handles that recess to be flush with the doors.

And the exterior wing mirrors are tiny, incorporating small mirrors that give a view of each side of the car.