Lexus Teammate is Toyota's Luxury Answer to Tesla Full Self-Driving and GM Super Cruise

2022 Lexus LS 500h Lexus Teammate
Lexus refreshed the LS sedan for 2022 and added Lexus Teammate semi-autonomous driving technology to its top-tier model. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The refreshed 2022 Lexus LS 500h will be the first vehicle sold the U.S. to come equipped with the Lexus Teammate advanced driver assist system (ASAS) when it arrives on dealer lots later this year. The tech is already available in Japan.

Lexus Teammate is a dual-function system that utilizes Advanced Drive and Advanced Park technologies to deliver hands-off steering capabilities for roadway driving and parking situations. It is not a fully autonomous or self-driving vehicle system.

Lexus recently allowed members of the media to test the Advanced Drive aspect of the system, which is currently being fine-tuned for U.S. customers ahead of the LS's on-sale date. The 15-mile testing loop was scheduled for interstates, expressways, and local roads around the automaker's Plano, Texas headquarters on a partly sunny day.

The company was very clear that the servers and cloud computing power for the system is still being built out so some capabilities, like the car's cloud-based navigation, weren't running as quickly as they will when the system comes to market.

2022 Lexus LS 500h Lexus Teammate
A large amount of information is displayed on the driver's information screen showcasing navigation, shifter position, fuel level, oil temperature, driver assist, speed, and time information. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Advanced Drive is designed to handle acceleration, braking, and steering commands within the vehicle's lane. The system will also change lanes, navigate some interchanges and traffic jams. It is only designed to work on limited access highways - those roads with a barrier between opposing traffic.

It supports SAE Level 2 functionality. This is the same level as General Motors' Super Cruise, Nissan's ProPilot Assist, and Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving suite of technologies.

Toyota has engineered Teammate with safety in focus first and foremost. Everything from the three levels of driving capability it offers - hands-off, hands-on with guidance, and traditional hands-on - to the way in which the vehicle handles itself in these situations and how it reacts to obstacles and turns makes that focus apparent.

Though the system is hands-off under the right circumstances, engineers have made it so that there's a fair amount of hands-on time when driving down the highway in anything other than a straight line, in one lane. To switch lanes, the driver must have their hands on the wheel, Then, they must hold press the turn signal in the direction they wish to go for a number of seconds to alert the system that they want to make the lane change.

2022 Lexus LS 500h Lexus Teammate
The new technology can suggest a lane change. The driver then has to approve that action before the lane change occurs. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Before performing the lane-switching function, the system requires the driver to place both their hands back on the wheel and actively check each side mirror for obstacles to the satisfaction of its on-board sensing technologies. Wheel tension, and eye- and head—tracking make sure these functions are performed before Teammate will allow a lane change, and only then will it proceed if the conditions safely warrant it. This all happens while the vehicle pushes out a series of audible dings, screen animations, and on-screen notifications to walk a driver through the process that prove distracting, especially in heavier traffic.

In contrast, Super Cruise and Full Self-Driving's similar technology activation is far less of a process. GM and Tesla have programmed their system so that when activated, in a manner similar to using traditional cruise control, the vehicle uses its on-board technology to determine if a lane change can happen when the driver has signaled that they wish to do so by tapping the turn signal. After a quick check of its surroundings, if it's safe, the vehicle proceeds. ProPilot Assist does not have automatic lane change functionality.

With each new Teammate engagement or lane change there is a certain amount of lag time as the vehicle gets comfortable in its lane and has all its technology reactivated. This is true of similar systems though with Teammate the time seemed comparatively extended.

Teammate doesn't use its traditional adaptive cruise control and lane centering capabilities to keep up with the flow of traffic when in Advanced Drive mode. No matter the set speed, or the speed of traffic surrounding the vehicle, the system will act with safety in mind, disallowing what it sees as an unsafe speed or maneuvering on a ramp, for example. A driver can, at any time, take over control of the vehicle if they wish to perform what the system would deem to be riskier behavior.

During testing, when merging from the Dallas North Tollway to the Sam Rayburn Tollway, as the vehicle approached a split left-right ramp decision, it slowed considerably compared to the flow of traffic and drove toward the center of the split for quite a distance before then moving to the right around the bend to go the route that was plotted in the car's navigation system. Around the bend, the car was kept between the lines and once the bend straightened out, speed was gained at an acceptable rate.

Exiting the highway onto a ramp or roadway results in a swift jolt courtesy braking experience that serves to remind drivers that the hands-free capabilities of the system are no longer activated. The jolt makes one hope that no one is following the vehicle too closely and its severity seems unwarranted.

Though it was a short drive on only mostly-baked technology, one thing stood out. The system is in no way intuitive at first pass like Super Cruise, Autopilot and Full Self Driving, and ProPilot Assist systems are. It features a series of motions, adjustments, and actions that require the driver to adapt to it rather than being the type of system that fits in with traditional driving habits like the others do.

That isn't to say that the system doesn't work. The technology behind it appears solid and the graphic interfaces and warning signals all performed as expected. At first test, it appears that the learning curve for Advanced Drive, and Lexus Teammate, is steeper than its competition.