Honda has announced a major first for the auto industry, being the first to release a Level 3 autonomous vehicle, as part of the Honda Legend Hybrid EX.
Autonomous vehicles are rated from 0 to 5, with each level representing a higher degree of AI involvement. A 0 rating means there is no assistance, and the driver is 100% responsible. At the other end of the scale, a 5 means the vehicle is fully driverless. A Level 3 means the vehicle controls steering, acceleration and braking, but the driver should still be ready to take over if needed. This is a big step up from the Level 2 Tesla Autopilot.
The Legend Hybrid EX is equipped with Honda SENSING® Elite, the automated driving system that Honda extensively tested. In simulations, the system was tested using 10 million possible real-world scenarios. Physical, real-world testing involved 800,000 miles of tests. The end result is a vehicle that surpasses anything currently on the road.
For vehicle control, the system determines the position of the vehicle and road conditions using data from 3-dimensional high-definition maps and the global navigation satellite system (GNSS), while detecting the vehicle’s surroundings using several external sensors that provide 360-degree input. At the same time, the system tracks the condition of the driver using a monitoring camera mounted inside the vehicle. Based on this wide range of information, the main electronic control unit (ECU) recognizes current conditions, anticipates future conditions and applies a high-level of control to acceleration, braking and steering inputs to assist the driver and achieve high-quality and smooth driving.
Even with all the testing, Honda is taking a decidedly cautious approach, only making 100 of the autonomous Legends. The vehicles will only be available for lease in Japan, beginning March 5. Nonetheless, if the Legend with Honda SENSING® Elite is a success, customers around the world may soon have access to next-generation autonomous driving.