Toyota RAV4 Spotted with LiDAR: ARAI Testing Self-Driving Cars

Toyota RAV4 Spotted with LiDAR: ARAI Testing Self-Driving Cars

Recently, observers spotted test models of the Toyota RAV4 navigating through the urban landscape of Pune suggesting a change in the evaluation method for self-driving technology in India's challenging traffic conditions. The Toyota RAV4 has been a familiar sight in India since 2020, with sightings continuing into 2021 and 2022. Fast forward to 2024, and the Toyota RAV4 is once again in the limelight, this time equipped with multiple LiDAR sensors.

Evaluating Self-Driving Capabilities for Indian Roads: ARAI's Role?

Upon closer inspection, these RAV4 test models feature at least four sensors, strategically placed on the vehicle. One is mounted on the roof in an aftermarket carrier, another at the rear bumper, one at the front left wheel well, and presumably, another on the opposite wheel. Notably, the roof-mounted LiDAR sensor appears to be the largest and most powerful of them all.

Toyota RAV4 Spotted with LiDAR: ARAI Testing Self-Driving Cars - pic
Toyota RAV4 Rear View

This uncovered RAV4 test model lacked camouflage, with a noticeable "ON TEST BY ARAI, GOVT OF INDIA" sticker displayed on the rear windshield. This vehicle may be a repurposed test model from earlier sightings, now enlisted by ARAI in 2024 to assess the feasibility of self-driving scenarios on Indian roads.

Understanding LiDAR Technology and Its Purpose for ARAI

LiDAR which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a technology known to tech enthusiasts for its use in depth measurement on Apple's Pro models of iPhones and iPads. However, ARAI utilizes professional-grade LiDARs in vehicles primarily for real-time object detection and efficient distance measurement. LiDARs excel in tracking distant objects complementing short-distance object tracking with radars and imaging from multiple cameras.

Toyota RAV4 Spotted with LiDAR: ARAI Testing Self-Driving Cars - snap
Toyota RAV4 Rear 3-Quarter View

Despite Minister Nitin Gadkari expressing support for developing autonomous driving technology in India, ARAI's proactive testing initiatives have sparked curiosity. Speculations suggest that ARAI may be collecting raw data from Indian traffic conditions to calibrate or develop self-driving algorithms. LiDAR sensors' real-time imaging capabilities are essential for course planning directing the car's direction, and spotting obstructions. ARAI may be carrying out the study for a customer who is considering autonomous driving in India.

Alternatively, this could be part of Toyota's standard testing protocol, where they gather traffic behavioral data across global automotive markets and outsource similar operations to ARAI. Whatever the case the outcome of this experiment will be interesting, particularly in light of Nitin Gadkari's strong position on driverless vehicles in India.