Automobile manufacturer Honda Motor is making a big leap into the autonomous driving world, planning to launch its first Level 3 self-driving car by next year in Japan. Considering reports, the self-driving technology will be integrated into Honda’s flagship luxury model, Sedan. The technology will reportedly enable drivers to take their hands off the wheel and even look away from the road when in use.
Though, Level 3 systems ranked on the SAE International levels of autonomy, where the car can drive itself for extended periods, as well as it warns the driver to take over when necessary. SAE Level 3 is an automated system that can perform some functions related to driving and monitor the driving environment in some instances. But at this level of autonomy, the human driver must be ready to take back control when the automated system cannot complete the task at hand.
Honda’s latest 2020 self-driving car is projected to retail for nearly 10 million yen (US$91,000), which would make it 40 percent more expensive than the standard model.
The automaker, in America, is leading its autonomous technology development through its Acura luxury brand. However, it is planning to arrive at a Level 5, fully autonomous car. Though, Honda didn’t disclose its predictions about when it would have a Level 5 vehicle in showrooms.
The automobile manufacturer has already demonstrated Level 3 vehicle technology when it announced its 2020 and 2025 goals two years ago. According to the company, when its Level 3 vehicle finally hits the market, it will really be more of a Level 3.5. Under optimal conditions and at specific speeds, the system will have the ability to monitor its environment and conduct normal driving tasks while it is supervised by a human driver.
Level 3 autonomous technology will also be able to change lanes as it works its way through traffic. Although, its capabilities will always rely on the vehicle’s speed and real-time location.
To allow Level 3 self-driving cars on the road, Japan has already passed legislation that will take effect by next spring. Also, the country wants to commercialize Level 3 technology next year. Apart from this, there is a major hurdle to the uptake of autonomous systems and that is cost. Because self-driving cars require a large number of sensors to stay in the right lane, perceive traffic signs and evade impediments without human intervention.
For the last few years, the world has been witnessing a race towards self-driving cars as several automakers have showed expectations for fully autonomous vehicles. Key players in this field like Waymo, Audi, General Motors, Tesla, among others all are planning to roll out their fully autonomous cars that require no human intervention.