DETROIT – The first automakers that come to mind when one thinks of automated driving technologies probably aren’t Honda and Toyota.

While part of that perception is factual, as Honda just introduced the fairly common rear cross-traffic monitor in its ’15 Acura TLX and Toyota’s Lexus LS flagship sedan lacks anything similar to Mercedes’ Distronic Plus self-steering, some of it may be the automakers’ own lack of promotion.

“We’re not as out front as some people on the PR campaign, (but) we’ve been working on (automated technologies) since the ’90s,” Eric Blumbergs, senior engineer-Automobile Technology Research Div. for Honda R&D Americas, tells WardsAuto here during a demonstration drive in association with the ITS World Congress.

Both automakers promise to deliver automated tech by the seemingly standard industry introduction date of 2020, although Blumbergs notes Honda could be ready sooner.

Both OEMs took to the streets of Detroit recently to show off what they have in the works when it comes to reducing or eliminating the role of the driver.

Lexus GS Fitted With Two New Technologies

Toyota demonstrated its suite of technologies, dubbed Automated Highway Driving Assist, in a Lexus GS 450h.

The car has been retrofitted with three systems: dynamic radar cruise control, which already is in market in Lexus models and works from 0-80 mph (129 km/h), lane-trace control, also functional from 0-80 mph, and predictive and corrective human-machine interface.

The latter consists of an in-car preview of tricky highway scenarios, such as left-lane exits, and driver-monitoring cameras and sensors that result in audible and visual warnings when eyes are focused down and a hand is removed from the steering wheel.

The Toyota technology is less automated than Honda’s, reflecting the No.1 Japanese automaker’s stance that automated systems will serve to help the driver, not totally remove them from the experience of driving.

For instance, lane-trace control, supported by steering-wheel-mounted sensors, requires the driver to keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times, otherwise a warning will sound.

In a test of the AHDA suite of technologies, a forward-looking camera, grille-mounted radar and a variety of advanced, pre-production sensors help the GS 450h navigate the busy northbound Lodge Freeway in downtown Detroit.

The preview alert, a visual cue appearing on a large, non-production center screen in the GS 450h, warns the car’s driver that an upcoming freeway exit is ahead on the left.

“The benefit is the driver avoided any last-second maneuvers, so any risk of collision is also reduced,” says Toyota Senior Scientist Rohit Pandita, who works in the automaker’s Ann Arbor, MI, tech center’s Integrated Vehicles Systems unit.

The preview technology uses the forward camera in conjunction with GPS and an enhanced map to determine where a vehicle is relative to other lanes, he says.

Moments later, when taking the exit for the eastbound Davison Freeway, a warning sounds to let the driver know the lane soon will exit onto Woodward Ave.

An “unsupported scene view” warning appears when approaching the exit for southbound I-75 from the Davison, as during testing two weeks ago faded lane lines were recorded.

They’ve since been painted, and Pandita says the system will learn the new lane lines. However, in this demonstration, the driver is warned to stay alert.

In another scenario on southbound I-75, the driver looks down from the road and takes his hands off the wheel, causing the car to chime urgently for him to re-engage.

“(The chimes) get louder and more annoying,” Pandita says, adding Toyota is still deciding whether or not lane-trace control in production will disengage should the driver not return attention to the road.

As I-375 ends and the GS approaches Jefferson Ave., an “end of highway” preview warns the driver must take control as the system support is ending.

Honda RLX Chock Full of Scanners, Radar

Honda’s automated technologies allow its test car, an Acura RLX fitted with a 2-D scanner, laser scanners, mid- and long-range radar, GPS, a gyroscope, stored maps and Lidar, to fully steer, brake and accelerate itself along almost the same highway route.

There is one moment where the driver must take control, when the car encounters slow-moving traffic upon exiting from the northbound Lodge onto eastbound I-94. Blumbergs says the area is tricky, due to construction and traffic.

“There are scenarios (that) become complicated, like the merge, and there’s construction as well as the cars, and the system just has a difficult time sorting that all out,” he says. “That’s why this is a proof-of-concept (vehicle).”

The driver of the RLX activates a “route planner,” and a green light indicates the system is ready to engage. He taps a button on the steering wheel and receives an audible cue and a visual cue, a green light bar below the instrument cluster, to show he is in full driving mode.

The Honda system is programmed to work at posted speeds, which presents a problem today given freeway traffic often moves at above-posted speeds. Honda believes this issue will solve itself when all cars have automated technologies and speed is controlled for safety and fuel-economy reasons.

The Honda technology proves more advanced than Toyota’s, as the RLX is able to merge from I-375 onto Jefferson, although it quickly disengages because it doesn’t support urban driving.

Blumbergs says more-advanced sensors and better control algorithms are needed to combat unforeseen construction and “sudden, unpredictable, erratic behavior” of drivers and pedestrians in an urban environment. He believes this will occur beyond the 2020 introduction date the industry is targeting for automated technologies.

Honda Hopes to Pair Automated, V2X

Honda’s ultimate goal is to combine automated technologies with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian technologies.

The automaker previewed its V2X technology on Detroit’s Belle Isle.

In one scenario, a Honda Accord fitted with dedicated short-range communication technology and pedestrian sensors sends a warning to a pedestrian whose smartphone is outfitted with V2X. The car automatically slows and applies the brakes when the pedestrian, a demonstration dummy, doesn’t stop walking into the road. The pedestrian then sends an automatic “thank you” text to the car.

Soon after, an early warning arrives that a bicyclist, whose phone also is fitted with V2X, is about to cross the Accord’s path. The car avoids hitting him.

In another scenario, a stopped vehicle ahead of the Accord sends a warning and a real-time photo of a road obstruction, in this case geese. The car engages its automated mode and changes lanes, a result of Honda’s partnership with mapping company HERE on lane-level digital maps and cloud service.

Also during the Honda V2X test, the Accord receives a warning a motorcycle is approaching from the right, well before it’s in view of the driver, as the motorcyclist has V2X on his smartphone.

In the last scenario, a Honda-claimed industry first, the Accord’s driver, upon having an emergency, sends a distress signal and another Honda equipped with V2X arrives and virtually tows him in a following mode to the nearest hospital.

The hospital also receives the distress signal and is prepared for the driver.

The Honda V2X system has a range of 984 ft. (300 m) and can see 360 degrees around the vehicle. It sends out a signal 10 times per second to communicate with other V2X-enabled vehicles or devices.

Sue Bai, principal engineer-Honda Automobile Technology Research, sees V2X first appearing in new vehicles but hopes the technology can be retrofitted into existing cars, and that chip vendors and smartphone makers and carriers support the technology.

“We’re working with (chip vendor) Qualcomm to enable this communication technology, but even if the phone is capable we still need to talk to the carrier and the device maker, so (V2X) will not happen overnight,” she tells WardsAuto.

Still, she says Honda hopes to be in market with V2X in five years, a relatively soon date.