The day of the autonomous vehicle being the predominant type on the road is still a long way away, but as Honda’s Sensing Elite system shows, things are starting to work their way there. The automaker debuted its Level 3 capable automated driving system earlier this month on the Japan-only Legend Hybrid EX, making it the first manufacturer in the world to debut a series production Level 3 self-driving vehicle.
Of course, the run of just 100 units means that the approach and scope is limited, but it does provide an insight as to what the tech is capable of and ably showcases the strides being made in automated driving.
The raft of driver assistance systems in the Legend includes active lane change with hands-off function and Traffic Jam Pilot, both of which are highlighted in the video. One of the key features of Sensing Elite is the hands-off function, which assists in steering the vehicle when the driver has his/her hands off the steering wheel when adaptive cruise control (ACC) and lane keeping assist system (LKAS) is activated.
The feature is supported by adaptive in-lane driving, which aids in maintaining position within a lane at a preset speed. When a vehicle is encountered ahead, the system helps in keeping to the middle of the lane while keeping a proper following distance from the vehicle in front.
As shown in the video, the next step up is with the active lane change with hands-off function, which executes lane change manoeuvres when the driver switches it on. As the car comes up to a slower vehicle ahead of it, the system checks the vehicle surroundings, and when it is safe to do so, applies the turn signal and automatically makes a lane change to overtake. After passing the car in front, the system assesses the surroundings and makes another lane change back to the non-passing lane
Meanwhile, Traffic Jam Pilot, the other feature presented in the video, comes into action when the vehicle gets caught in traffic congestion while being driven in hands-off drive mode. Under such situations, the system activates automatically (under 30 km/h) to control acceleration, braking and steering to pilot the vehicle along in stop-start traffic within the same lane, while maintaining a safe following distance according to the speed of the vehicle in front.
When Traffic Jam Pilot is engaged, the driver can watch a video on the navigation screen as well as operate the navigation system to search for an address while the system drives the car in traffic. Once the congestion clears and the road opens up, the system will demand that the driver takes over the driving. When the driver resumes the task of driving, the system acknowledges the input before going back to ACC/LKAS mode. After a while, when it is safe to do so, hands-off drive mode kicks in again.
Vehicle control by the system is enabled by the use of data from three-dimensional high-definition maps and the global navigation satellite system, which determine the position of the vehicle and road conditions, while the vehicle’s surroundings are detected using a number of external sensors. Inside, the vehicle tracks the driver’s attentiveness with a monitoring camera.
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