Lexus prototypes fitted with Australian-first connected technology have started testing on Melbourne roads, as part of a trial with Telstra and VicRoads.
The RX450h test cars are part of a two-year, $3.5 million trial funded by a $9 million grant from the Traffic Accident Commission (TAC).
The vehicles are on connected to the Telstra 4G network, and speak with each other to warn drivers about pedestrians crossing, vehicles running red lights, slow or stopped cars, speed signs, and heavy braking up the road.
What the technology won't do is intervene if an accident is imminent. Able to send messages from car-to-car in just 40 milliseconds, it's designed as an 'early warning system' for drivers, giving them a heads-up when danger is present.
Demonstrated on Toyota's wide-open test track in Altona, the system's benefits are arguably clearest in a busy city, where it can 'see around corners' our eyes (and radar or camera sensors) simply can't.
On-road testing will take place for the next 12 months in Melbourne's CBD and South Melbourne, and on the highways around Geelong.
"The essence of this connected-vehicle trial is about amplifying our ability as drivers, combining and coordinating the skills and strengths of the human and the machine - a seamless blend that extracts the best from both," says Scott Thompson, Lexus Australia chief executive.
It is, however, reliant on a 4G connection. Telstra says vehicle-to-vehicle communications are prioritised when there's heavy network demand, which should help the cars maintain connectivity, but it isn't a system that works in some of Australia's most remote locations.
VicRoads manager for vehicles and motorcycles, James Soo, says the on-road trial is a "key milestone" in "understanding the potential road safety benefits" of vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity.
It's also a starting point. Telstra is rolling out 5G connectivity at the moment, which will make vehicle-to-vehicle communications faster again. There's already coverage in Australia's capital cities, and around 25 per cent of country is expected to be supported by the network within 12 months.