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Auto blogTue, 08 Jan 2013 18:00:00 EST
While Google and Audi explore the possibilities of autonomous vehicles, Toyota and its Lexus division are studying the intermediate step of vehicles equipped with a deep suite of technology that help drivers make the best decisions. Introduced at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Lexus advanced safety research vehicle is an LS sedan fitted with three high-def color cameras to detect objects up to almost 500 feet away, 360-degree Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) lasers that can detect objects up to 220 feet away, three radar units to keep track of other vehicles at intersections, a precision odometer on the rear wheel, GPS that estimates orientation and an accelerometer.
Currently testing at a purpose-built 8.6 acre urban testing ground at the Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in Susono, Japan the Toyota research vehicle is being used to study how to make better drivers, as well as figuring out how to reduce crashes as the industry's journey through passive and active safety systems progresses. In the event of a crash, new rescue systems are also being tested.
Further investment is being put into the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) that would use shortwave signals to harness information from the car and from other vehicles on the road, as well as roadside infrastructure and even pedestrians. Toyota reasons it could then build a picture of interactions and, for instance, alert the driver to a potential collision at a blind intersection.
Over the past two years, Toyota has invested more than $2 billion at its North American production facilities, and it apparently doesn't plan on stopping there. To keep up with recent strong sales, Toyota is investing an additional $200 million at its engine plants in the Southern US to increase production capacity of its V6 engines.
The bulk of this money ($150 million) will go to expand Toyota's engine plant in Huntsville, AL, which is currently responsible for supplying engines - four-cylinder, V6 and V8 - to eight of Toyota's 12 domestically produced vehicles. That includes the best-selling Toyota Camry (shown above).
Toyota didn't say exactly what improvements are being made to the plant, but this follows last year's $80 million investment in the plant that is set to be completed by next year raising the engine capacity to 750,000 annual units including 362,000 V6s. The remaining $50 million will go to the casting plants of Toyota-owned Bodine Aluminum in Missouri and Tennessee, which supply engine blocks and cylinder heads to the Huntsville engine plant as well as others in Kentucky and West Virginia. Scroll down below for the official press release.
Our friends at Road & Track recently stopped by Cars and Coffee in Irvine, California, with the 2013 SRT Viper and found themselves a place to park between a Lamborghini Aventador and a Lexus LFA. Those machines might as well be the three musketeers of ludicrous exhaust notes, and rather than keep those 24 raging cylinders muffled, R&T set about conducting an orchestra of internal combustion. On seeing these three lined up, we were more than prepared to call the Viper victorious when it came to tickling our ear drums, but the latest domestic V10 sounds down right civilized in this company.
If we're picking favorites, we have to say the LFA takes the cake. There's something about the noise of a street-legal V10 that can wrap it's tachometer all the way to 9,000 rpm that turns our knees to quivering dollops of jelly. Check out the clip below for a listen. We shouldn't need to tell you to get frisky with the volume.