Though it has become one of the foremost entities in the American auto market, Honda has been surprisingly mum on its plans for autonomous cars. That changed last week when the Honda SENSING driver assist system debuted on the all-new Legend sedans in Japan, ahead of a worldwide rollout.
Known better as the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid here in America, the Honda Legend is a mid-size luxury car for the Japanese market where Acura just doesn’t exist (it’s an American thang). Honda hopes to move closer to a collision-free society with its SENSING system, which uses a millimeter-wave radar mounted in the grille and monocular camera on the upper inside of the windshield. These two systems enable the Legend to “see” potential pedestrian threats up to 60 meters out, and the radar system can read their speed to see if they prove to be a collision threat. If the car detects an accident is imminent, it’ll start apply the brakes automatically while alarms sound, and if the driver still doesn’t react it will actually steer and stop the car for you in an effort to avoid a crash.
This system joins other common semi-autonomous features like lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and a road departure mitigation system that will try to keep your car from driving off the road. There’s even a false start system that prevents you from jumping the gun at a stoplight and rear-ending the driver in front of you. These features essentially “idiot-proof” cars against distracted decisions, which in the age of smartphones is a very real threat to driver safety.
The SENSING system mark’s Honda’s first real foray into autonomous vehicles, though the Japanese automaker has been much quieter on its self-driving car efforts. Unlike Tesla, Mercedes, and to a lesser extent Ford and Nissan, Honda’s autonomous car efforts have been basically non-existent until now.
Honda is late to the party, but they didn’t come empty handed either. Just how serious is Honda taking autonomous cars?