Toyota will deploy self-driving technology in commercial vehicles first

Personal autonomous vehicles are still years away for the company.

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Toyota is finally throwing its hat in the self-driving vehicle ring. After initially choosing the slow lane for autonomous vehicle development, Toyota announced Tuesday that it will be adding self-driving features to its commercial vehicles before deploying them in personal vehicles.

Commercial vehicles first — Toyota is set to release its first “Level 2” self-driving vehicle — meaning it’s ready to drive on the highway only — in the near future. According to James Kuffner, a senior official at the company, it will be easier to apply self-driving tech to vehicles that don’t require constant monitoring, like non-passenger vehicles.

A slow road to autonomy — The wait for a self-driving Toyota you can buy for personal use will be quite a bit longer. The company has said in the past that its plan for autonomous vehicles is decades-long.

“It will take more time to achieve ‘Level 4’ for a personally-owned vehicle,” Kuffner said. Vehicles can drive themselves under limited conditions once technology has reached Level 4 status.

Slower, steadier, and (hopefully) safer — Toyota’s slow-going strategy for autonomous vehicles has already put it behind companies like Waymo and Tesla. But the strategy could pay off if it means the company’s vehicles will be safer than those that have rolled thus far.