Honda will be the first to mass-produce a Level 3 autonomous self-driving car, but what is Level 3?
The race to build self-driving cars is a battle that many automakers are quietly participating in, and it seems that Honda is about to spearhead to the front of this race as they have just received type approval in Japan to sell vehicles with Level 3 autonomous driving technology.
The approval from the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism means that Honda will now be able to sell cars with this technology starting with the Honda Legend sedan.
Due to be launched by 31 March 2021, the Level 3 system in the car will allow it to drive itself instead of the driver under certain conditions, such as when the vehicle is in congested traffic or highway.
When specific requirements are not met, the system will issue a warning to the driver, where they will then have to take over the driving immediately, Honda said.
Mercedes-Benz has also been touted to introduce a Level 3 system in the new S-Class in mid-2021 but so far there is no news of it receiving regulatory approval. Closer to home, it is worth noting that the Proton X50 has Level 2 systems.
To understand what Level 3 is we must first explore the 5 levels of autonomous driving.
Level 1: Driver Assistance
This is the most basic form of autonomous driving. The driver still handles most of the car's functions but with a little autonomous help. For example, adaptive cruise control, brake booster, park assist sensors.
Level 2: Partial Automation
Partial automation allows drivers to somewhat disengage from some basic driving functions. Level 2 vehicles are able to assist with functions like steering, acceleration, braking, and maintaining speed, but drivers will still have to have both hands on the wheel and be ready to take control if necessary. For example, car centring assists and auto-braking.
Level 3: Conditional Automation
Conditional automation which can sometimes be referred to as 'eyes-off' functions is a system that helps drivers to sit back and let the car do all the driving. With a speed limit of 60km/h, cars with Level 3 systems don't require any human intervention when moving, but only under ideal road conditions.
Level 4: High Automation
At this level, cars are capable of accelerating, braking and steering all by themselves. They're also able to read and monitor road conditions where they will then respond to it accordingly, determining when to turn and when to change lanes. Just like Level 3, this system will only be available for activation when road conditions are ideal.
Level 5: Full Automation
This level is what we dream of for the future. It requires no human interaction as vehicles are able to accelerate, brake, steer and avoid obstacles on the road. Level 5 automation enables the driver to sit back and relax without having to pay any attention to the car’s functions whatsoever, just like what we see in films that portray future mobility. Will Smith's Audi in I Robot comes to mind when thinking of Level 5.
So are you ready to leave the driving to sensors? Or are you more Level 1 and Level 2 only for now?