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  • Lexus president Koji Sato, speaking to Automotive News Europe, said the company will launch hands-off driver assistance on a car unveiled this year.
  • The vehicle will be able to automatically change lanes and pass vehicles on the highway; it will also support over-the-air updates for a potential upgrade to Level 3 autonomy.
  • No word yet on what part of the world will get this future Lexus’s feature set.

    At a press event in Europe, Lexus international president Koji Sato said that the automaker will be unveiling a vehicle this year that will feature hands-off driver assistance. The upcoming Lexus system will automatically change lanes and pass vehicles on the highway.

    The system sounds a bit like Cadillac’s hands-off Super Cruise driver assistance, which was recently upgraded to enable automatic lane changes.

    Sato didn’t share any details about which model would support the feature or which region it would be available in. In 2017, Lexus showed the LS+ concept (pictured ab0ve), which featured Highway Teammate semi-autonomous driving technology. At the time, C/D reported Lexus was is working with the Japanese government to map all of that country’s highways to prepare for the technology, meaning it was likely it would be rolled out in Japan first.

    Sato shared the information about the planned rollout with Automotive News Europe during an interview after a press event. He said, “It will start from Level 2, but it will have over-the-air updates so that for the future we can update the level.” It’s not clear whether the vehicles will ship with Level 2 with hands-off support and then be upgradable to Level 3, or if Sato sees the hands-off feature as a Level 2+ feature that won’t be available at launch.

    Audi’s Level 3 Traffic Jam Pilot on the 2018 A8 hasn’t been offered to customers because the automaker couldn’t get approval from regulators. Level 3 offers hands-off and eyes-off driving under very specific conditions but requires the driver to be able to take over control at a moment’s notice.

    In 2017, Lexus unveiled an LS concept with autonomous technology. That same year, the automaker noted that it was uneasy about the handoff between vehicle and human during Level 3 driving.

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