Honda wants to release a car with level 3 autonomy before April 2021

Japanese carmaker Honda plans to release a Legend sedan with a level 3 autonomy system before the end of its current fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2021, with autonomous driving taking serious forms.

Honda reports that it has received approval from the Japanese government for a system that allows for level 3 autonomy. This is the so-called Traffic Jam Pilot. The company plans to start selling Legend cars equipped with this system before April next year. That will be limited to Japan for the time being.

The approval allows the system to drive the car in certain circumstances, instead of the driver. This could include situations in traffic jams or heavy traffic on motorways. At level 3, the system monitors the driving environment around the car and can take over tasks. However, if the conditions are no longer optimal, a warning is issued that the driver must take over the driving.

Degree of autonomy

According to the definition of the Society of Automotive Engineers, there are six levels of autonomous driving, where level 0 stands for a complete absence of autonomy, while level 5 means that a car can drive completely autonomously in all cases. At levels 0 to 2 the human driver has to keep an eye on the driving environment, but from level 3 the system takes care of that. Level 3 is therefore seen as the first level at which one can actually speak of autonomy. Levels 4 and 5 go even further. There is no longer any need for the rider to intervene.

Level 2 could include an advanced form of lane keeping and adaptive cruise control, where the driver can temporarily outsource the steering, acceleration and braking to the car, but must remain alert to take over control or make corrections at any time. to be carried out. Level 2 mainly revolves around highways and one-way roads, where traffic is fairly clear. For example, the car itself can change lanes, overtake other cars and take off and on ramps of the motorway. At level 3, such systems work so well that the car can take over the steering and from a technical point of view the driver can take his hands off the wheel, although he must remain alert in order to intervene.

Current systems

Honda already has its Pro Pilot Assist system, which amounts to a level 2 system on the autonomy scale. This system can automatically manage speed and steering, so drivers must be constantly alert to manually take control. Tesla’s Autopilot and General Motors Super Cruise system are also classified under level 2 autonomy. According to Reuters, Honda says it is the world’s first manufacturer to mass-produce cars with level 3 autonomy systems, referring to its plans for the Honda Legend.

Elon Musk said in July that his company Tesla is close to reaching level 5 autonomy. He said he was confident that the basic functionality for level 5 autonomy will be ready this year. According to him, there are no more fundamental challenges to reach that level, but he acknowledged that there are still many small problems.

One of the main challenges to achieving full autonomy is how the systems respond to unexpected situations. On a motorway, everything is reasonably clear and predictable, but in a busy city there are cyclists and pedestrians and all kinds of situations can suddenly arise to which the system must respond adequately and quickly. Many other manufacturers assume a combination of different types of sensors, such as radars, lidars and cameras, but Tesla mainly sticks to the use of cameras, whereby deep learning algorithms must ensure the recognition of objects. However, it is difficult to train these types of systems for all unforeseen situations that may arise.