Honda developing advanced Level 3 self-driving technology

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TOKYO — Honda said it is developing Level 3 self-driving capability to function at any speed below legal limits on highways by the second half of the 2020s as it strives to eliminate traffic deaths involving its vehicles.

Honda in March 2021 became the world’s first carmaker to sell a vehicle with Level 3 self-driving technology, in Japan. When the Japanese carmaker launched its Legend sedan with Level 3 automation technology last year, production was limited to 100 units. Honda’s Level 3 “Traffic Jam Pilot” system can kick in at speeds below 19 miles per hour on highways, remaining operational until the speed picks up to 50 km per hour.

Honda calls the system it’s developing Honda Sensing 360 (or AcuraWatch), an expansion of the current Honda Sensing suite of driver assists on vehicles today. It will deploy the technology overseas in the second half of the decade, and it should reach U.S. customers by 2030. 

Known as conditional driving automation, Level 3 involves technology that allow drivers to engage in activities behind the wheel, such as watching movies or using smartphones, but only under some limited conditions.

“We believe we can help reduce accidents by pursuing Level 3 technology, which in essence is about cars that do not crash,” Honda engineer Mahito Shikama told reporters on Tuesday. Honda is aiming for a zero-fatality rate from traffic accidents involving its cars and motorcycles globally by 2050.

Shikama declined to say how soon Honda would start mass-producing its Level 3 self-driving vehicles. 

Among its rivals, Mercedes-Benz late last year won approval from Germany’s KBA car watchdog for its Level 3 driving system.

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