The latest and greatest version of Honda’s active safety suite, dubbed Honda Sensing Elite, which highlights SAE Level 3 autonomous driving capabilities has officially been launched. The first application of Honda’s system will be featured in the Honda Legend EX which will be leased to owners in its home market of Japan.
The SAE level 3 capability Honda Sensing Elite means that Honda has bridged the gap to conditional automated driving (in a limited area), meaning vehicles equipped with Sensing Elite should be able to cover substantial amounts of a journey with limited driver input.
However, the driver must be able to take over at specified periods when required.
One of the major additions of the Sensing Elite (over the existing Sensing) is the “Traffic Jam Pilot” function, an advanced technology needed to qualify for Level 3 automated driving. Traffic Jam Pilot technology enables the automated driving system to drive the vehicle under certain conditions, instead of the driver, such as when the vehicle is in congested traffic on an expressway.
To guide the car, the system determines the position of the vehicle and road conditions using data from the 3-dimensional high-definition maps and the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), in addition to detecting the vehicle’s 360-degree surroundings using several external sensors.
At the same time, the system tracks the conditions of the driver using the monitoring camera mounted inside the vehicle. Based on such a wide range of information, the main computer makes proper recognitions, predictions, and decisions and applies a high-level control to acceleration, braking, and steering inputs to assist the driver.
To ensure the system is safe and reliable, the system development employed simulations where a total of approximately 10 million patterns of possible real-world situations were simulated, and several demonstration tests were conducted while driving test vehicles on expressways for a total of approximately 1.3 million kilometres. Moreover, the system incorporates redundancies in its design to ensure safety and reliability in the event of a problem with any of the devices.
Other features of the Honda Sensing Elite system include:
- ‘Hands-off’ Functionality - while driving with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow (LSF) and Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) activated, when certain conditions are satisfied on an expressway, the system will assist the driving operations even while the driver has their hands off the steering wheel.
- Adaptive In-Lane Driving - the system assists the driving and in following a car in front within a lane. The system drives the vehicle along the middle of the lane while maintaining the pre-set vehicle speed, an extension of Active Cruise Control.
- Active Lane Change Assist with Hands-off Function - While driving using the Adaptive In-Lane Driving, when the driver confirms safe surroundings and puts on the turn signal, the system assists acceleration/deceleration and steering for the lane change.
- Active Lane Change with Hands-off Function - While driving using the Adaptive In-Lane Driving, when the driver switches on the Active Lane Change with Hands-off Function, the system assesses the situation and assists the lane change and/or passing of the other vehicle under certain conditions. When the system detects a car in front being driven at low speed, the system notifies the driver and then assists the passing and returning to the original lane.
- Traffic Jam Pilot - While driving using the “Adaptive in Lane Driving”, when the vehicle gets caught in traffic congestion under certain conditions, the system takes control of acceleration, braking, and steering while monitoring the vehicle’s surroundings on behalf of the driver. The system drives, stops, and resumes driving within the same lane while maintaining a proper following distance in accordance with the speed of the vehicle in front.
- Emergency Stop Assist - If the driver continues to be unresponsive to the system’s requests for a handover (the transfer of control back to the driver), the system assists deceleration and stopping of the vehicle by making lane change(s) to the outermost lane or the shoulder of the road. To be more specific, in case the driver does not respond to the system’s handover requests as the Traffic Jam Pilot/Hands-off Function will be disengaged, the system further urges the driver to respond to the handover request using visual, auditory and tactile alerts including escalated alarm sounds and vibration on the driver’s seatbelt. If the driver continues to be unresponsive, the system will assist in slowing down and stopping the vehicle while alerting other vehicles around using hazard lights and the horn. When there is a road shoulder, the system assists deceleration and lane changes until the vehicle reaches the shoulder of the road for a safe stop.
The Honda Sensing Elite system communicates its processes and requests to the driver with its Human-Machine Interface (HMI). Elite indicator lights are positioned on the steering wheel, the top part of the navigation screen, and glovebox. When the Hands-off Function is activated, the indicator light on the steering wheel illuminates, and when Traffic Jam Pilot is activated other indicator lights also come on with a blue light. When the system requests the handover, all indicator lights change their color to orange and blink to send an easy-to-understand message to the driver.
A separate 12.3-inch full-LCD meter also displays the operating status of the system, driving situation, and the handover requests in a simple and legible manner.