The Next Two Olympics Will Feature Self-Driving Cars


The Olympics are a celebration of human athletic achievement, but car companies plan to use the biannual spectacle to show off something a bit less organic. Hyundai is using the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, to show off its new self-driving cars, while Toyota has just revealed its intention to use the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo to demo new automated systems in its own cars.

“We want to show a high-spec technology as a showcase,” Ken Koibuchi, Toyota’s executive general manager and head of autonomous driving development, told Automotive News during a preview of the new 2018 Lexus LS.

Just as Hyundai wants to take advantage of the spotlight the 2018 Winter Games will shine on South Korea, Toyota plans to do the same with what the 2020 Summer Games will do for Japan.

When it comes to advancing autonomous car development, the company is behind other competitors like Tesla. Toyota still needs to ramp up its testing and development of LIDAR sensors in order to allow its cars to correctly “see” its surroundings. The company will also need to make sure its cars are installed with high-quality maps of its road networks, which will take time. 2020 could be a watershed moment for demonstrating to the world what the company’s cars can do, but only if it’s able to lay the technical groundwork down first.

Toyota prefers to steer clear of using the word “autonomous” to describe self-driving vehicles. The company uses a softer label of “automated,” in accordance with language recommended by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.