Aside from electrification, another buzzword in the automotive industry is autonomous driving. So far, several automakers are in Level II, which still requires full attention from the driver in emergency maneuvers. The next step for them is Level III, which is a barrier for most.
But Honda says they are the first to put it in production, and they will do so with the 2021 Legend. Dubbed the Traffic Jam Pilot, Honda aims to include it in the large sedan's options list before March 2021.
Level III Autonomous Driving is also known as “eyes off” driving. Instead of the driver constantly monitoring surroundings, the vehicle's radar takes over that task. It only hands back driving duties back to the driver if conditions are unfavorable, or in an event of an emergency. That allows the driver to perform other tasks, but that's where the challenge comes in. At that point, it's difficult to determine liability because both the car and driver are making inputs to avoid an incident.
So, what is Honda's Level III autonomous driving system? It's essentially an evolution of Honda Sensing. The car can drive itself at lower speeds and steer itself on the highway. To some extent, the car can also perform driving duties in heavy traffic. The difference is, the Level III system is more proactive than reactive thanks to more sensors and radars in the vehicle. In some ways, it can scan the road and spot potential hazards before you see it. Aside from the Traffic Jam Pilot, the Legend also has pedal misapplication mitigation, pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, traffic sign detection, and automatic emergency braking.
As an extra precaution, Japanese authorities are requesting automakers to place Autonomous Drive stickers on their vehicles. It's likely to prevent cases of other motorists driving dangerously alongside these (semi) self-driving vehicles. Also, Legends equipped with Traffic Jam Pilot are fitted with recording devices to see if the system can be trusted and gain Level III certification.
If Honda can pull it off, they would beat Audi and Mercedes-Benz to the punch and become one of the leaders of autonomous driving technologies.