• Kyodo

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Toyota Motor Corp. announced Thursday its launch of new models for its luxury sedan Lexus LS and hydrogen-powered Mirai equipped with assistant technologies that allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel in designated lanes.

The new LS went on sale Thursday at a price starting from ¥16.32 million ($148,800). The Mirai will be sold from Monday, priced from ¥8.45 million, the company said.

The autonomous driving technology equipped with the new models is a level-2 assistant system that could help with driving on an expressway or other motor-vehicle-only roadway.

The technology can help with keeping the vehicle in its lane, maintaining the distance from other cars and navigating a lane splitting.

Autonomous driving technology is classified into five levels, ranging from level 1, which allows either steering, acceleration or braking to be automated, to a fully automated level 5.

Among Japanese automakers, Nissan Motor Co. and Subaru Corp. have developed level-2 assistant technologies.

Honda Motor Co. launched in March its Legend sedan with level-3 autonomous technology, making it the world’s first vehicle to hit the market that allows the driver to engage in different tasks such as reading and watching TV when the car is in certain conditions such as congested traffic on expressways.

Japan has been keen to push for the development of self-driving cars, with a revised law taking effect in April last year that allows level-3 autonomous vehicles to run on public roads.

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