Japan-based Honda Motor has said it will be the world’s first automaker to mass-produce autonomous level 3 sensor-packed vehicles that will allow drivers to let their vehicles navigate congested expressway traffic.
“Honda is planning to launch sales of a Honda Legend (luxury sedan) equipped with the newly approved automated driving equipment” before the end of March 2021, Honda said in a press release.
A key technology battleground for automakers is the race to build self-driving cars, with technology companies such as tech giant Google’s parent Alphabet Inc also investing billions of dollars in a field expected to boost car sales.
Recently, Japan’s government awarded Honda’s autonomous “Traffic Jam Pilot” driving technology a safety certificate, which legally allows drivers to take their eyes off the road.
“Self driving cars are expected to play a big role in helping reduce traffic accidents, provide transportation for the elderly and improve logistics,” said Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
There are six levels of vehicle autonomy, from 0 to 5, ranging from manual cars or those with simple functions such as cruise control to fully self-driving vehicles that would not need steering wheels, or brake and acceleration pedals.
Level 2 cars, which are currently on the pubic roads can control their own speed and steering, but must have an alert driver capable of taking control at all times.
In July, US electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Inc said that it was “very close” to achieving autonomous driving at level 5.