Driving in traffic jams is annoying and prone to accidents. Adaptive cruise control helps in such situations. But drivers still need to pay full attention to the traffic and keep their hands on the steering wheel.
Systems for conditionally automated driving or Level 3 automated driving are set to change that. Honda is taking the next step in autonomous driving by launching a vehicle with such a system. The Japanese Ministry of Transport granted approval for this in November 2020.
The manufacturer has equipped the Legend Hybrid EX, an upper mid-range sedan, with a traffic jam pilot and is launching the vehicle in Japan, albeit in a limited edition. This makes it the first series vehicle on the market that can drive partially automated.
Conditionally automated or Level 3 automated driving means that people do not have to constantly monitor the car. The vehicle performs certain functions such as changing lanes and keeping in lane or accelerating, braking, and steering in traffic jams. In the meantime, the person can turn to something else until the vehicle prompts them to take control again.
SENSING Elite is what Honda calls the Level 3 system. It is based on the sensing system that is part of the standard equipment of the cars offered by the Japanese concern in Europe. This includes adaptive cruise control (ACC) and a lane departure warning system (LKAS).
So-called hands-off functions have been added. This means that your hands do not have to be permanently on the steering wheel while the vehicle is driving itself. It can accelerate or brake in relation to a vehicle in front. It keeps the lane or changes it when the turn signal is activated.
If the traffic jam clears, the vehicle warns. If a person does not react to the various warnings, including tones or vibrations from the seat belt, the vehicle drives to the hard shoulder or the edge of the road and brakes in a controlled manner.
The difference between Level 2 and Level 3 is not only that the person has to be in constant control of the vehicle and have their hands on the steering wheel. At Level 3, it is not the driver who is liable but the manufacturer. To ensure that the systems are safe, Honda says it has tested them extensively: around ten million real driving situations were simulated in the simulator. In addition, the test vehicles drove 1.3 million km.
The vehicles equipped with SENSING Elite can be recognized by their blue auxiliary lights and special rims. Honda will be offering the Level 3-capable sedan from March 5, 2021, in a small edition only in Japan and exclusively for leasing.