Even as automakers work on making cars more enjoyable to drive, they’re also working on how to reduce human input on next-generation models. Honda may just take humanity a step closer towards completely autonomous driving.
The Honda Sensing Elite system makes its public debut in Japan
The carmaker has launched its Honda Sensing Elite system, the first in the world to feature Level 3 autonomous driving technology that allows for most independent driving tasks while still requiring human override.
This safety package has been cleared for use in production cars by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), and is rolling out on the Honda Legend Hybrid EX currently offered for lease in the country.
According to Honda, the new technology builds on the standard Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist features that enhance vehicle safety. Showcased on the Honda Sensing Elite is a ‘Traffic Jam Pilot’ function that can assume control of acceleration, braking, and steering.
Special auditory and visual alerts will notify the driver of the system's status
Monitoring the vehicle’s immediate environment using data from high-definition 3-D maps, global satellite navigation, and feedback from external sensors, the feature can independently maintain distance from the car in front.
This leaves human operators free for other activities such as watching entertainment or working the navigation system. Honda says this can help minimize stress and fatigue on the driver during instances when traffic is moving at a snail’s pace.
The feature works with Adaptive In-Lane Driving that allows the vehicle to maintain a pre-set speed while following another car along the middle of a lane. Active Lane Change with Hands-Off Function notifies the driver when the car in front is traveling at low speed, assisting with deceleration or acceleration and steering.
Initially offered on the Honda Legend, the system showcases Honda's efforts towards road safety
A ‘Hands-Off’ feature also helps with driving operations even when the driver is not touching the steering wheel. When the system’s requests for the driver to take back control of the vehicle (using alerts such as alarm sounds and seatbelt vibration) remain unheeded, it will engage the Emergency Stop Assist feature to slow down and stop the vehicle on the outermost lane or shoulder, while alerting other drivers using the horn and hazard lights.
Meanwhile, an onboard camera monitors the condition of the driver, who will be notified of the system’s status using accessory lights on the steering wheel and dashboard along with a 12.3-inch full LCD meter.
Although Honda has tested the system for 1.3 million kilometers against 10 million possible real-world driving patterns, it reminds users to still observe their surroundings during driving and be fit enough to respond to requests for manual control.
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Joseph Paolo Estabillo